For most Ligue 1 clubs, December promises to be a mad sprint. There will be five league matches crammed into the period before Christmas, and with some clubs still having European commitments on top of that, squads will be stretched like never before.
Paris Saint-Germain may have overcome Manchester United in the Champions League on Wednesday, putting them in a good position to qualify, but they have seen their lead at the top of Ligue 1 chipped away following a disappointing 2-2 draw with Bordeaux last weekend.
Behind them, four clubs are on 23 points, just two off the pace, while Marseille are on 21 with a couple of games in hand.
This frenetic period promises to be vitally important.
Ligue 1 Game of the Weekend: Montpellier vs Paris Saint-Germain
Saturday night’s clash at Stade de la Mosson sees Montpellier host PSG. The hosts have the incentive of being able to go top if they can pick up the victory, but conversely, the Parisians will go five points clear of the pack with a win, putting the pressure on before Sunday’s games.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are regaining their means. After a flurry of injury problems in the autumn, they are closing in on full strength once more. Perhaps more importantly, confidence will be high after their success at Old Trafford, in which Neymar and Marquinhos were the stars of the show.
Montpellier, though, will be no pushovers. They have switched formation successfully to a 4-3-3 and have at their disposal an outstanding offensive duo in the form of Andy Delort and Gaetan Laborde. Michel der Zakarian’s men should be at full strength for this match and will be hopeful of causing an upset.
Ligue 1 Match Day 13
The weekend action gets underway in Nimes, who will be without a handful of regular when they play host to Marseille. Andre Villas-Boas has reneged on comments that he does not want to qualify for the Europa League following a 2-1 win over Olympiacos, which ended a 13-game losing streak in the Champions League. The prospects of OM overcoming Manchester City in midweek, though, look slim.
Saturday’s early kick off pits out-of-form Rennes against Lens. A long journey back from Russia will not have helped the Bretons, although Lens are not firing currently.
The midday kick-off on Sunday promises to be a cracker between Lille and Monaco. The visiting side have a strong head of steam and, without European commitments this season, should be the fresher of the two outfits. Lille may have Renato Sanches back, though.
Bordeaux will be aiming to build on their draw with PSG last weekend in the multiplex matches but host in-form Brest, while Dijon are seeking a second win of the campaign at home against a Saint-Etienne team who put an end to a seven-game losing streak against Lille last time out.
Angers will expect to continue their upward momentum at home against Lorient, while Nantes need to get back on track against struggling Strasbourg.
Reims later host Nice before Metz and Lyon round out the weekend’s play.
Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Angelo Fulgini – Angers – £0.68
Much was expected of Angelo Fulgini when he broke through at Valenciennes at a young age. Now in his third season with Angers, the former France Under-21 playmaker is starting to flourish.
Deployed further forward in recent weeks, he is essentially playing as a No.10 and is flourishing in the position. He stands in the top 10 in the league in terms of key passes, ranks well in terms of expected assists and has a couple of goals to boot. These numbers are all trending upwards in recent weeks as he pulls the strings of an Angers side who have won three of their last five.
Against a struggling Lorient side, Angers should be out to win impressively – and if they do, Fulgini will be to the fore.