Ligue 1 Preview: Match Day 21

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The transfer window in Ligue 1 is yet to ignite, and in truth it is unlikely to do so before it closes on January 31. 

Only Lyon, whose starting XI has been decimated by a quartet of serious injuries, have significantly indulged, signing Karl Toko Ekambi, with announcements for Bruno Guimaraes of Athletico Paranaense and Tino Kadewere of Le Havre expected imminently.

Meanwhile, the Coupe de France has taken centre stage, with the big guns largely avoiding embarrassing exits having entered in the last 64 at the beginning of the month.

The last 16 will follow in midweek, with Monaco’s hosting of Saint-Etienne the highlight, but before then there is league business to attend to.

Ligue 1 Game of the Weekend: Lille vs Paris Saint-Germain

Sunday’s showcase fixture will see fifth-placed Lille play host to Paris Saint-Germain in an encounter that is set to provide a stern examination of the champions.

The teams suffered contrasting fortunes in the Coupe de la Ligue in midweek, Lille exiting on Tuesday after dramatically forcing penalties away to Lyon, while 24 hours later PSG cruised through 3-0 winners over Reims. 

Lille, though, possess the league’s strongest home record, with eight wins and two draws from 10 matches, while they also have a clutch of former PSG youngsters such as Mike Maignan and Jonathan Ikone desperate to impress against their former side.

The Parisians, meanwhile, are managing their energy stores judiciously ahead of the return of European football next month, which has meant regular rotation in their ranks. 

Thomas Tuchel could be without Marquinhos and Juan Bernat due to injuries in this encounter, while Edinson Cavani will depart, leaving Mauro Icardi to be backed up by Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting as the club’s only other genuine No.9.

Having been the victims of a Nicolas Pepe masterclass in a 5-1 loss at Stade Pierre-Mauroy last season, PSG well know that this is a fixture they cannot treat lightly.

Rest of the Weekend

The weekend kicks off in Nice, where Patrick Vieira’s side play host to in-form Rennes, who are seeking to further establish themselves in the top three.

Marseille follow in Saturday’s early kick-off against Angers, a fixture that promises to be an awkward one for Andre Villas-Boas’ men given that they are without a trio of regulars, including Dimitri Payet, because of suspension.

Monaco’s hosting of Strasbourg highlights the Saturday evening action, while Montpellier will try to keep the pressure up on the European contenders by continuing their fine home form against an improving Dijon.

In Saint-Etienne, meanwhile, the hosts will seek to put an end to their worst league run since 2011 against struggling Nimes.

On Sunday, Lyon will host a Toulouse side that is reeling from a 5-2 loss against Brest a fortnight ago – their 11th in succession in all competitions.

Then a tribute to Emiliano Sala, who was lost almost exactly a year ago, will be paid by two of his former clubs when Nantes meet Bordeaux at Stade de la Beaujoire. The hosts have unveiled a smart Argentina-style kit for the occasion, which is expected to attract a bumper attendance, highlighting the respect that fans had for the striker.

Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Rayan Cherki – Lyon – £3.60

The emergence of Lyon youngster Rayan Cherki over the course of the last three weeks has been astonishing. While the 16-year-old’s talents were known, no-one expected him to transfer these to such a high level so rapidly.

He caught the eye particularly last weekend against Nantes in the Coupe de France, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes before laying on a couple more later, before being frozen to the bench on Tuesday.

Although he will be used judiciously over the months to come, head coach Rudi Garcia surely cannot ignore him on Sunday, and against a confidence-starved opponent like Toulouse, the flair-packed attacker will hope to prove his talent further.

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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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