Ligue 1 Preview: Match Day 18

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The winter break in Ligue 1 was used as an opportunity for change by Paris Saint-Germain and Nantes, who both appointed new head coaches in a bid to improve their fortunes.

PSG, of course, expect to be gunning for the title, so sitting third was deemed reason enough to sack head coach Thomas Tuchel and replace him with former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, who played centre-back with the club during his playing days.

Nantes, meanwhile, are seeking to put the brakes on their slide down the table and have controversially appointed Raymond Domenech to the head coach post. With the fans in open warfare against the board, the former France boss faces a hard time to turn things around.

Will these new beginnings signal a change in fortunes? The answer will begin to unfold in Matchday 18.

Ligue 1 Match of the Round: Saint-Etienne vs Paris Saint-Germain

All eyes will be on Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Wednesday as Saint-Etienne play host to PSG, who will be under the charge of Pochettino for the first time.

Although the home side are presently on a six-match undefeated run, five of these games were drawn. Moreover, two were against relegation rivals while they failed to overcome 10-man Monaco immediately before Christmas, despite leading 2-1.

With midfielders Yvan Neyou and Mahdi Camara both banned, they face a major challenge to preserve their recent good sequence.

PSG, meanwhile, are set to go into this match hampered by injury issues. Neymar, Presnel Kimpembe, Alessandro Florenzi and Leandro Paredes are just a handful of the players who will miss out.

Pochettino has only had three sessions to work with his side, but despite the constraints, he is expected to start with a win.

Rest of the Round

Wednesday will see a full card of matches, with five taking place early in the evening and five coming later.

The highlight of the early fixtures is the derby match between Nantes and Rennes, a side that had rediscovered its form before the winter break.

Meanwhile, Monaco will attempt to get back to winning ways against struggling Lorient, Brest will seek to maintain their strong home record versus Nice and Metz tackle Bordeaux, who will be without Hatem Ben Arfa for around three weeks due to a thigh injury.

The other early fixture is a vital relegation scrap between Strasbourg and Nimes.

Leads Lyon are involved in the later fixtures with a tricky home match against Lens. OL are without Marcelo because of suspension, while a broken arm keeps Moussa Dembele out and Covid-19 will prevent Karl Toko-Ekambi from playing. Their guests will have close to a clean bill of health.

Second-place Lille also have an awkward looking match at home against Angers, while Marseille and Montpellier is another potentially mouth-watering fixture.

Finally, Reims and Dijon, who were both improving before Christmas, will seek to take a step away from the trapdoor as they meet in Champagne.

Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Boulaye Dia – Reims – £0.63

With 10 goals in the first half of the season, Boulaye Dia has been eclipsed only by Kylian Mbappe in the scoring stakes this season.

Unsurprisingly, there has been speculation that the forward could be on his way during January, having quietly established himself as a player to watch.

He is the kingpin of Reims’ attacking work and finished 2020 with a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win over Bordeaux.

With Reims in improving form, he will hope to profit from a match against a relegation rival, in which the Champagne side could shoot themselves away from trouble with a positive result.

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About Author

A football journalist specialising in the French and Scottish game, Robin has been writing professionally for over a decade. His career highlights include attending World Cups in Brazil and Russia, and Euro 2016 in France.

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