Ligue 1 returns this weekend after a winter break that comprised of one weekend off and then a weekend of Coupe de France action.
All of the big guns successfully avoided any embarrassment at the hands of amateur opponents, although Marseille flirted with disaster as they required penalties to overcome fourth-tier side Trelissac.
Meanwhile, league leaders Paris Saint-Germain had few such problems defeating Linas-Montlhery 6-0 and were so taken by the amateur outfit, the coach of whom actually possessed a season ticket to Parc des Princes, that they elected to invite their opponents to watch them dismantle Saint-Etienne 6-1 in the Coupe de la Ligue a matter of days later.
Kylian Mbappe throwing out 20 yard rabona shots now..
A whisker away from a wonder goal 👌 pic.twitter.com/kG1i3JtXPb
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 8, 2020
So while it is a new year, the same powerbase remains, with the capital side very much the team to chase as they hold a seven-point advantage over OM at the top of the table.
Ligue 1 Match of the Weekend: Rennes v Marseille
Friday night’s clash between Rennes and Marseille promises to be a cracker to open 2020, with much riding on the fixture at Roazhon Park for both sides.
Victory for second-placed Marseille would see them open up the gap on the Breton side, who are third, to eight points and would give Andre Villas-Boas’ men a perfect platform to attack the second half of the season from.
The Portuguese saw his side win six matches straight before Christmas before they were finally held by Metz, but they remain well positioned to secure a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2013.
Rennes, meanwhile, are in the thick of the battle to finish on the podium for the first time in their history. They have typically been streaky this season but hit a hot patch before the winter break that has seen them win their last five league outings.
Both teams go into this match close to full strength. Rennes continue to do without Jonas Martin, who has been a long-term injury issue, and Clement Grenier, while OM are minus Florian Thauvin, expected back next month, and the suspended Hiroki Sakai.
Rest of the Weekend
On any other weekend, PSG’s hosting of Monaco would be the highlight fixture, particularly as it will be Roberto Moreno’s first Ligue 1 match with the Stade Louis II club, who sacked Leonardo Jardim after a 5-1 win against Lille to round off 2019.
In fact, this is the first of a double header between the teams, who will play a rearranged fixture from the first half of the season in the principality in midweek – a real baptism of fire for the former Spain boss.
Earlier on Sunday, Saint-Etienne host Nantes while Lille will attempt to continue their resurgence in Dijon, where the home side have already taken points against PSG and Rennes this term.
Bordeaux’s home match with Lyon is the highlight of Saturday’s action, with OL boosted by a couple of cup victories in midweek. Rudi Garcia’s side are still troubled by long-term injury problems, though, and have yet to strengthen their squad this month.
All of the bottom four have testing home fixtures, with Toulouse now onto their third head coach of the season after sacking Antoine Kombouare following the Coupe de France exit at the hands of __ last weekend. Denis Zanko has taken charge and his first match will be a critical fixture against Brest.
Montpellier chase their first away win of the campaign in Amiens, while mid-table sides Angers and Nice square off at Stade Raymond-Kopa.
Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Raphinha – Rennes – £1.49
Signed from Sporting CP for a fee of €21 million in the summer, Raphinha initially struggled to make an impact in Rennes.
Since scoring his first goal for the club in a 3-1 win against Amiens in November, a fixture that has come to be seen as a watershed moment for the team this season, his importance to the team has rocketed.
Goals against Dijon and Saint-Etienne followed, as did a brace of assists in a 2-1 December win over Angers.
Given an extra few days off over the winter, he was not involved in the Coupe de France win over Amiens last weekend, so returns fresh for Friday’s big game, in which he will hope to showcase his dazzling dribbling and match-deciding ability.