While European competition continues to rage, the talk around France has surrounded domestic matters. A fresh national shutdown had threatened Ligue 1 football, yet professional sport in France has been given the green light to proceed under closed-door conditions.
Teams have generally been able to play in front of a few hundred, or even a few thousand fans, but until December 1 at the earliest, all matches will take place in empty stadiums.
Football clubs, of course, continue to be touched by Covid-19, with Lens having 11 players test positive ahead of their Friday meeting with Marseille, causing it to be postponed.
The weekend’s other fixtures, however, go ahead as planned.
Ligue 1 Match of the Weekend: Lille vs Lyon
Sunday night has once again been reserved for the pick of the weekend’s matches, with undefeated Lille playing host to Lyon.
Christophe Galtier’s side have been bumped down to second in the standings by PSG but are reckoned by many to have enjoyed the most impressive start to the campaign of any team in the league.
They face a major test on Sunday when Lyon come calling, though. Rudi Garcia’s side were under pressure before hammering Monaco 4-1 last weekend in a spectacular counterattacking display, and travel to the far north seeking to replicate that form.
Lille are, at the time of writing, injury free prior to this fixture, while Lyon have doubts over centre-back Jason Denayer but should otherwise be at full strength.
Rest of the Weekend
With Friday’s match between Marseille and Lens postponed, Rennes’ derby with Brest will kick the weekend off on Saturday. Later that evening, Nantes, severely hit by injury and suspension in defence, face a PSG side that looked likely to be bereft of several regulars, including Neymar.
Both Saint-Etienne and Montpellier also have a long list of issues as they face off on Sunday in the early kick-off, while the other focus match of the weekend is Monaco’s encounter with Bordeaux, in which Niko Kovac will try to regain some credibility after a dire recent run.
The multiplex matches do not include any of the contenders for European football, aside from Nice, who travel to Angers, with the focus being on the relegation battle. To that end, Dijon versus Lorient and Reims versus Strasbourg promise to be important fixtures even this early in the season.
Nimes play in-form Metz in the other of Sunday afternoon’s games.
Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Boulaye Dia – Reims – £0.92
Reims finally showed something like their potential last weekend as they hammered Montpellier 4-0 away from home, albeit benefitting from their opponents’ indiscipline as they had two players sent off and conceded two penalties.
There is little doubt, though, that the return of Boulaye Dia to the starting XI made a dramatic impression. He netted a hat-trick before being taken off after an hour having suffered physical issues in the weeks building up to the game.
Dia, whose season has been disrupted by talk of a transfer move, is the league’s joint-top scorer on six goals, is gaining in terms of his physical capacity and is high in confidence, having scored a goal for every 72 minutes on the park.
Reims boss Jerome Arpinon will hope it makes for a potent blend against a Strasbourg side that has been weak defensively this term.