French football writer Eric Devin‘s new Ligue 1 Talking Points column took the plaudits last week and he returns with five more reflections on last weekend’s top flight action.
PSG and Marseille show off ahead of huge clashes:
While both OM and PSG were always expected to win fixtures against two of the league’s worst sides, to do so in such impressive fashions has laid down a marker for Lyon, as well as for Monaco, Bordeaux, or any other side with Champions’ League aspirations. And with both facing important matches in the week to come, to make a statement with these sorts of performances was also important for each side’s self confidences, especially with dodgy results for both clubs of late.
Marseille, on the back of an embarrassing home defeat to Caen last weekend, traveled to Toulouse, a place that has been a difficult trip in recent years for many sides but with Le TFC looking more like relegation fodder than their usual mid-table selves this season, could feel confident of a victory.
After last weekend’s tactical farce involving Rod Fanni and Jeremy Morel in central defence and Andre Ayew as a holding midfielder, things looked less out of sorts for Marcelo Bielsa’s men, with Baptiste Aloe getting a run out at centre-back, and the wasteful Florian Thauvin making way for the Ghanaian, now operating in his preferred position. The only real surprise way Michy Batshuayi again being preferred to Andre-Pierre Gignac.
An impressive physical specimen, the young Belgian has struggled at times in the league this season, missing a penalty and several good chances against Caen, but as rumours swirled about the relationship between Bielsa and Gignac, he again got the nod. This time, however, he delivered, after only two minutes, latching onto a through ball from Dimitri Payet and shaking off two defenders before driving the ball low and hard across the face of the goal into the opposite corner.
A second followed on the stroke of half-time, with shocking defending by the hosts and while Gignac did add a goal of his own two minutes from full time, he will more than have his hands full in terms of reclaiming his starting spot. Personnel drama aside, it was a fine performance all around from Marseille, who host Lyon in a match that could see them gain a leg up in the title race or be all but out of it, depending on the result. While a defense lacking Nicolas N’Koulou surely won’t be heartened by the sight of Lyon putting five past Montpellier, the attacking players should be brimming with confidence, and l’OM will look forward to the leaders’ visit.
PSG, on the other hand, have a match of much greater importance, as their trip to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday has grown to take on a huge level of importance with regard to the club’s ambitions in the near future. With Financial Fair Play becoming ever more stringent, the chances of PSG dramatically improving their side in the summer are slim indeed, barring a major sale.
With a 1-1 draw in the home leg in their pocket, PSG badly needed a strong result against relegated Lens, especially with only one win in four league, having been held by Lyon, Monaco and Caen in recent weeks. With a win over Jose Mourinho’s side necessary to progress in Europe, the confidence that Zlatan and co. can take from this result could be a huge boost for their trip to London, and having found their scoring boots again, even if against mediocre opposition, things could get very interesting come mid-week.