After a week of successful international football for France, who won two and drew the other of their three fixtures, it’s back to the club game and back to reality.
While football has been given the okay to continue in the country, the escalating nature of the Covid-19 crisis in the country means that games that might previously have been played in front of a few thousand will now take place in empty stadiums as new restrictions around the country take hold.
And as these new restrictions take hold, many clubs will be juggling the challenge of players returning from international duty with the prospect of European football as the pace of the calendar picks up to a lightning speed before the break at Christmas.
It promises to be a long winter, with Mediapro late with their payment over the league’s television rights adding to financial concerns that many clubs suddenly have.
Ligue 1 Match of the Weekend: Lille vs Lens
The return of Lens to Ligue 1 means the return of the Derby du Nord, one of the most intense rivalries in the French club game. Adding spice to the occasion is the fact that both teams are in the top three of the early standings, with both looking highly impressive through six matches.
Lille, of course, approach this match as favourites. Christophe Galtier’s side have shown steady progress since the start of the season and remain undefeated. While much of this is due to their steady defence, in which keystone Jose Fonte is a doubt after testing positive for Covid-19 while on international duty, there are signs that their attack is slowly clicking into gear.
Jonathan David may remain mute, but is improving after a sluggish beginning, while Burak Yilmaz looks an increasing threat.
Lens, meanwhile, have selection issues ahead of this encounter, with the in-form Ignatius Ganago missing due to an ankle injury and fellow summer signing Seko Fofana unlikely to play as he continues his rehabilitation from a thigh problem. In Gael Kakuta, though, they have one of the league’s in-form playmakers.
Rest of the Weekend
With Champions League football to come on Tuesday, Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain are both in action on Friday, with matches against Dijon and Nimes respectively.
Both have selection headaches prior to the match, with PSG shorn of Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria due to suspensions while they are left to sweat on several players returning fit and ready from international duty.
Saturday’s fixtures begin with Reims seeking their first win of the season against Lorient then Marseille playing host to Bordeaux in a historical grudge match.
The pick of the afternoon multiplex fixtures is Monaco’s home encounter with Montpellier, while Angers host Metz and Nantes face Brest in another derby match.
Saint-Etienne then play Nice before Sunday night’s big derby match.
Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Jeff Reine-Adelaide – Nice – £1.14
Jeff Reine-Adelaide arrived at Nice on transfer deadline day a player with a point to prove. The dynamic midfielder felt he was treated with a lack of respect at Lyon, where he was surprisingly bereft of game time after a promising start to his career with the Rhone side. This is his opportunity to start proving his point.
Nice have lacked dynamism in their midfield so far this season, largely because Wylan Cyprien was not picked as he was set to leave the club – and ultimately did so for Parma. Reine-Adelaide should be able to provide some of that missing creativity and he will bring with him an additional goal threat.
First up for the former Angers and Arsenal man is a trip to Saint-Etienne, who will be short of defensive players due to injury and suspension. This is a match Nice should be aiming to win.
Even if he is overlooked for the weekend, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to score matchday and in-play dividends over the coming months, with Nice enjoying a packed schedule due to their European commitments.
Such is his talent, it would be little surprise if he was catching the eye of some of Europe’s biggest clubs once again this time next year.