You are reading the Get French Football News Talking Points Column, written by Eric Devin.
When Paris Saint-Germain hammered Lille, previously the league’s joint second-best defence, 6-1 on Saturday, their intent was clear. Dumped out of the Champions’ League rather unceremoniously by Barcelona mid-week, something seemed to have been awakened within the capital side. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani, so often afterthoughts despite their big-money moves, broke out, combining for five goals and an assist.
While both could still be off in the summer, with Lucas Moura still not back to his best following his injury and Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing due to suspension, the duo picked a fine time to find themselves at their Napoli-era best, earning a rare start together and combining well with in-form Javier Pastore. Not always at their sharpest after European fixtures this season, PSG laid down an impressive marker for the run-in. With goal difference still potentially a factor in the title race, the chance for PSG to chip away at Lyon’s lead in that department wasn’t one to be scoffed at and despite a middling performance from Lille’s usually solid ‘keeper, Vincent Enyeama, there was to be no doubt surrounding this result.
Not to be outdone in their own hopes of rebounding from their Champions’ League disappointment, Monaco struck three times without reply to all but seal Lens’ fate. While six points adrift of the leaders following last weekend’s surprise draw against Rennes, Monaco’s title hopes have faded, but Ligue 1’s form team of 2015 continued to work towards a return to Europe.
Like PSG, Monaco’s potent attacking trident proved the difference, with Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, Anthony Martial and Bernardo Silva each netting. It’s been eight matches for Monaco across all competitions since a player apart from the three has scored, but their pace and ability to play a long pass have done little to dent the club’s aspirations, as a 1-0 loss to Juventus is the club’s only loss in that period. Now two points ahead of Saint-Etienne and four up on struggling Marseille with four matches remaining, Monaco control their own destiny as regards their claim on third place, a Matchday 36 trip to the Velodrome looming as the potential key to a Champions’ League return. Based on Sunday’s evidence, one would have to be confident in Martial and company’s chances.
Having seen their fellow top three rivals fill the net over the previous 24 hours, Lyon wasted no time on their trip to Reims. With three goals inside 19 minutes, the result was never in doubt for the visitors, even with Maxime Gonalons’ unfortunate own-goal. Less than their best defensively as a desperate Reims pressed to level the score, Lyon nevertheless continued to demonstrate the mental fortitude necessary to continue their surprise challenge.
With Clement Grenier making his first start of the year and Gueida Fofana once again on the bench, Lyon not only served notice for this year’s title aspirations, but also to their potential for next season. Boosted by another year in which to increase their consistency and regain fitness, the likes of Clinton N’Jie, Grenier and Fofana will be key for the squad depth necessary to compete on multiple fronts next season.