Ligue 1 Preview: Match Day 18

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All eyes are on Lyon heading into the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, after Rudi Garcia’s side progressed through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League in midweek and still found themselves in the media spotlight as their players and fans were involved in a post-match fracas.

Even by French standards, where fans are notoriously fickle with their teams, it was a harsh attack on a group that had shown uncharacteristic guts to fight back from 2-0 down against RB Leipzig and progress thanks to Benfica’s home win over Zenit. 

It was also a reaction that will have done little to persuade Memphis Depay, one of the stars of the league, to extend his contract beyond the end of the season.

PSG, meanwhile, had far less drama in an easy 5-0 win over Galatasaray ahead of the return of Le Championnat at the weekend.

Ligue 1 Match of the Weekend: Lyon vs Rennes

Seventh hosts fourth at Parc OL in Sunday’s middle kick-off slot, with the match having taken on a whole new significance following the fall out from Lyon’s Champions League progress on Tuesday.

Both players and fans will have had time to digest the ugly scenes at the end of the match and only if there is a will on both sides to renew the bond will Lyon be on the right route to success in the long term.

A hostile home crowd will do Rudi Garcia’s side no favours, particularly when their form is so shaky in any case.

The exception to this rule, of course, is Memphis, who has scored 10 times in his last nine games for club and country, and who is playing arguably the best football of his career. He has thrived since being made captain and showed in midweek a willingness to put his neck on the line for his club-mates – something that they can surely rally around.

Rennes, meanwhile, had the distraction of a Europa League match against Lazio on Thursday, having already been eliminated from the competition. With Sunday in mind, they left numerous key players out of their squad.

Rest of the Weekend

Another team out of Europe and with their focus on the league was Saint-Etienne, who rested much of their squad for the trip to Wolfsburg ahead of an eye-catching Sunday night match against PSG that in other circumstances might be the highlight of the weekend.

The visitors come to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard leading the lead by five points and with their deadly front three full of confidence after each scoring against Galatasaray. If the visitors find that kind of level once again, they will be tough to stop.

The weekend’s action gets underway on Friday, with third-placed Lille, who possess the best home record in the division, playing host to a Montpellier side that was on course to beating PSG last weekend before Pedro Mendes was sent-off.

LOSC fielded a fringe side in the Champions League against Chelsea, and despite being well outplayed lost only 2-1. Montpellier, meanwhile, are seeking their first away win of the season.

A side that knows a thing or two about winning of late is Marseille, who have strung together six successive victories, travelling to struggling Metz. With Dario Benedetto set to return for Andre Villas-Boas’ side, they start as strong favourites.

Elsewhere on Saturday evening, Monaco travel to a fading Angers side, while Nantes head south to Nimes seeking to build on last weekend’s narrow victory over Toulouse, who themselves host Reims as they aim to break a six-match losing streak.

Sunday’s early kick-off between Bordeaux and Strasbourg promises to be an intriguing fixture, with Racing having been brilliant or hopeless in recent games.

Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Memphis Depay – Lyon-  £4.65

With 10 goals in his last nine matches, Memphis Depay may just be in the form of his life. Handed the responsibility of captaining Lyon by Rudi Garcia, the 25-year-old has thrived.

In midweek, he proved his ability to thrive under pressure by squeezing home the equaliser against RB Leipzig, thereby guiding his side through to the last 16 of the Champions League when it seemed they might be heading for the European exit entirely.

Domestically, he has five goals and an assist in his last four matches, including a couple against Nimes last weekend in a match he played just 76 minutes.

After clashing with fans on Tuesday, he will feel he has a point to prove – and he is set to let his football do the talking. Rennes beware.

 

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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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