There was further disappointment for the French clubs in the Champions League in midweek as Lyon and Lille both suffered losses, while Paris Saint-Germain were reliant upon a late rally to secure a 2-2 draw against Real Madrid following a mediocre display.
Given the league form of these clubs – even PSG have hardly been scintillating, despite manufacturing an eight-point lead at the head of the standings – this was hardly a surprise. There continues to be little to pick between second and bottom in Le Championnat, which has concertinaed in a fascinating manner ahead of a week that will see each club play a midweek match.
Ligue 1 Match of the Weekend: Monaco vs Paris Saint-Germain
While a trip to a club 14th in the standings may not seem a particularly intimidating challenge for a side so far clear at the top of the league, Sunday’s match in Monaco promises to be a test of Thomas Tuchel’s side, who have already lost three times this season.
It comes immediately on the heels of a difficult trip to Real Madrid in midweek, while it is the second fixture in a sequence that sees PSG play eight times in the space of 26 days. Rotation is likely to come to the fore for the capital side, with Neymar liable to be recalled after being treated gingerly in midweek as he was left on the bench for the opening 45 minutes of the game.
Monaco, meanwhile, are performing far better than their league position might suggest – at home at least. They have won their last five at Stade Louis II, and while a 1-0 win over Dijon on the occasion of their last fixture in the principality does not exactly shine on paper, it is worth remembering that the Burgundy side recently upset the defending champions.
The hosts still have significant selection problems, with the greatest issue now the absence of Islam Slimani, who has been the hub of much of their best offensive work since he arrived on loan from Leicester.
Rest of the Weekend
The weekend begins with Marseille seeking to cement second position with a home match against Brest.
Andre Villas-Boas’ side are chasing a fourth successive Ligue 1 win, and while their previous victories have not been achieved by scintillating performances, they have inevitably found a way to get the job done, despite the ongoing absence of Florian Thauvin, who is now not expected back until February.
Brest, who have lost only four games all season, are unlikely to make it easy for them, although they suffered a major injury blow on the eve of last weekend’s fixtures with leading assist maker Yoann Court ruled out for several weeks.
Lyon make a perilous trip to Strasbourg in the pick of Saturday’s matches, with Rudi Garcia’s men having a point to prove following their midweek loss in Russia. With Memphis Depay, Thiago Mendes and Martin Terrier among those struggling, it would be a significant achievement if they were to win in Alsace, where the hosts have rediscovered their mojo in recent weeks.
Elsewhere on Saturday night, Reims’ hosting of Bordeaux promises to be an intriguing matchup.
Sunday’s fixtures see Toulouse go to Nantes in a battle of two out-of-form sides, while Europa League outfits Rennes and Saint-Etienne square off in Sunday’s middle kick-off.
Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Teji Savanier – Montpellier – (£1.97)
Last season was the year of Teji Savanier as he proved one of the league’s unsung heroes at Nimes, where he remarkably finished the campaign as the leading assist maker in the division.
His move to hometown side Montpellier was expected to see his level elevate further, but instead he has been hampered by injury problems. Saturday’s fixture against Amiens may see him feature for a full 90 minutes for the first time at home.
Montpellier have been strong at Stade de la Mosson, where they have won five of their last six games, scoring 10 goals in the process.
Amiens, meanwhile, might be enjoying a comparatively strong season, but they were dismantled 4-0 at home by Strasbourg last weekend and will make the long journey south with a depleted squad.
Savanier and his Montpellier team-mates will expect to be able to take advantage.