PSG, Monaco, Marseille and the League of Talents - Top Four Ligue 1 Storylines

AFP

 

Terri Leigh

 

PSG Still The Team To Beat 

Your 2018/19 Ligue 1/Coupe de France/Coupe de la Ligue champions are back in action for Ligue 1 Matchday 20! Monstrously presumptive, you say?  Aside from this week’s penalty heavy ousting out of the League Cup, we absolutely stand by our assumptions for the rest of the silverware as PSG travel to Amiens on the back of a record breaking first half of the season and showing no signs of letting their foot off the gas, with an historic 47 points after 17 Ligue 1 games.

And with not one, but TWO games in hand, the Parisian’s paltry 13 point lead over their nearest competitors Lille is realistically closer to a meaty 20 points given their ridiculously good form.  

 

But even with that king-sized cushion, Tomas Tuchel will need to laser focus on squad rotation. Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani combining for just about 60% of PSG’s 81 goals scored so far this season, but with three competitions occupying all their precious ice-bath recovery time, it takes just one ankle sprain here and another knee knock there to create selection problems for the gaffer.

Good thing PSG have the squad depth necessary to tackle issues like that… but with Champions League the real priority for the club, only the best and most expensive players will do.

 

Monaco Climbing Back After Fall From Grace

PSG’s alter-ego Monaco pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start 2019 on the safety hunt, trying to rescue their historically shambolic season to ensure the shadow of their 2017 Ligue 1 Hexagoal-lifting selves won’t be relegated in 4 months time.

 

Going into the winter break 2nd from bottom, and having been shut out by the last placed team in Ligue 1, one had wondered if Thierry Henry would ever know what it feels like to smile again. But his happy meter blipped ever so slightly after their backup keeper scored the winning overtime penalty kick in Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal, and threatens to keep on blipping with the signing of Cesc Fabregas. But, the immediate task at hand, throw the squad of kiddos and Falcao into the team bus and look ahead to Sunday’s trip to Marseille, and a stark reminder of the mountain they must climb.

 

Rudi Garcia's Miserable Marseille

Speaking of another club trying to ignore the ‘Crisis!’ headlines… Marseille now have zero excuses and will be able to focus all their energy on the league and clawing their way back into the European places. 

Currently sixth in the table with a couple games in hand, Marseille have officially taken all other extracurricular activities off their timetables by crashing out in spectacularly humiliating fashion of their final cup competition.

Last year's Europa League runners-up exited the Coupe de France at the hands of Andrezieux…Andre-who? Exactly. A fourth tier amateur club that beat Rudi Garcia’s men 2-0 despite withstanding 28 shots against in a performance the manager surely had other words for in the locker room but to the press referred to as ‘unacceptable’.

OM now look for a first victory in nine matches when they face Monaco in the Derby de Débâcle.

 

'The League of Talents' 

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are already represented in the CIES Football Observatory’s Top 3 Most Valued Players In The World.  So they are happily dismissed from our beIN SPORTS Most Anticipated Stand Out Stars Of The Second Half Of The Ligue 1 Season. 

Instead, pending possible January transfers, Nicolas Pepe is on the cusp of a breakout season with Lille, tied for 2ndin the goalscoring charts behind the aforementioned World Cup Winner.  12 goals, 5 assists, helping lead Lille to the ‘best of the rest’ title behind PSG in the standings. 

 

The 23 year old Ivorian is joined by Emiliano Sala with 12 goals so far.  The towering Argentine striker makes the list having shone under new manager Vahid Halilhodzic with 8 of this goals coming under his reign. 

And lastly, it’s the 21 yr old who comes from royal footie blood, Marcus Thuram, essentially single handedly bringing Guingamp back from the dead. He’s responsible for scoring half of the bottom club’s goals this season, plus with 4 goals in their last 3 games that saw them progress in both the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue, a win in which they may still be celebrating, after knocking the mighty PSG out of the competition.