Ligue 1 Preview: Round 17

With things tight at the top approaching Christmas, Le Championnat’s top teams won’t want to be giving too many presents away.
Saturday, December 11, 2010

19:00 Arles-Avignon - Lille
19:00 Stade Brestois – Montpellier
19:00 Caen – Nice
19:00 Lorient – Racing Club de Lens
19:00 Nancy – Sochaux
19:00 Valenciennes – Paris Saint-Germain
21:00 Auxerre – Olympique de Marseille

Sunday, December 12

17:00 Olympique Lyonnais – Toulouse
17:00 Monaco – Saint-Etienne
21:00 Girondins de Bordeaux – Stade Rennais
Arles-Avignon – Lille

It’s bottom against top in Avignon, where the hosts will be looking for some warm before Christmas as they meet a Lille side who have been in rampant form offensively in recent weeks.

ACA have struggled to acclimatise to life in Ligue 1 this season and have won only one game. Faruk Hadzibegic’s side have found themselves in the news this week after Alemine Erbate’s dramatic departure from the club’s game against Nancy last weekend. Playing at home, Arles picked up a valuable and deserved point, and will greedily accept a repeat.

Lille, meanwhile, earned plaudits for their open football in a 6-3 victory over Lorient. Though les Douges were defensively suspect, they were brilliant offensively, with Eden Hazard and Gervinho shining. Reports suggested the Ivoirian could have suffered a serious problem towards the end of that match, but it’s been revealed that he could be back at the weekend.

Stade Brestois – Montpellier

Brest were humbled 3-1 away to Paris Saint-Germain last weekend and will hope to bounce back from that set-back when they meet a Montpellier side who felt hard done by after going down 2-1 against Lyon.

Nolan Roux, SB29’s leading marksman and general talisman, indicated that he felt the defeat harsh, but in reality the Bretons were simply out-played. Roux has since been subject to rumors of a transfer bid from Aston Villa. Meanwhile, Grandi Ngoyi is the only major absentee for the hosts.

MHSC suffered late heartbreak last weekend as they conceded late on against Lyon, going down 2-1 ultimately. La Paillade were the better team for long periods of that match and certainly merited a better result. The bad news didn’t end with defeat as an injury to Hasan Kabze could see him join Cyril Jeunechamp and potentially Marco Estrada on the sidelines.

Caen – Nice

Nice make the huge journey north to meet a Caen side in free fall fueled by a positive win over title favorites Marseille last weekend.

The hosts have been in wretched form of late, hemorrhaging goals at an alarming rate. Last weekend that rot was stopped to some extent as they went down 1-0 in Toulouse, but coach Franck Dumas will feel that was a match his side could have gained something from. Gregory Tafforeau could miss out after going off early last weekend.

Les Aiglons suffered a very different sensation to their weekend hosts as they recorded a superb 1-0 triumph over Marseille. Their only shot on goal came from Emerse Fae right at the death and proved to be decisive. With their injury problems slowly clearing, Nice will feel this is a match they could win.

Lorient – Racing Club de Lens

Lorient have been unable to push themselves into the top half of the Ligue 1 table, despite commanding the best home record in France’s top flight. This is a record they’ll aim to improve when they host a Lens side who have been in trouble since the start of the season.

A 6-3 defeat against Lille last weekend might have entertained spectators, but coach Christian Gourcuff wasn’t impressed by his side’s defense during that fixture. The attack functioned well but two-goal Kevin Gameiro is looking likely to miss out. Meanwhile, there are suspension for Alaixys Romao and Fabien Audard.

Lens have few such worries, with only David Pollet and Issam Jemaa poised to be sidelined. All of les Sang et Or’s problems are on the field as they have been unable to lift themselves out of the bottom three for several months. Coach Jean-Guy Wallemme is under pressure and last week’s late concession in a 1-1 draw with Auxerre will have irked him greatly.

Nancy – Sochaux

When Nancy meet Sochaux on Saturday evening, one of the worst home teams in the league will be meeting one of the worst on their travels. Making the match all the more interesting is the fact that both have improved these aspects of their game of late.

Since beating Valenciennes 2-0 last month, ASNL have looked a good deal more assured on their new artificial pitch, while they will also boast Julien Feret in their ranks after he missed out last weekend. There are still a handful of issues, with Alfred N’Diaye doubtful and Michael Chretien out.

In the other dugout, coach Francis Gillot has a number of problems too, namely that technical playmaker Marvin Martin is sidelined through suspension. Damien Perquis is only expected to return to action next week, while Kevin Anin, who was injured in the warm-up last weekend, should be back. Otherwise, les Lionceaux have no fresh movement on the selection front.

Valenciennes – Paris Saint-Germain

Antoine Kombouare returns to the venue his coaching career really took off, Valenciennes, with his in-form Paris Saint-Germain side, who presently lie second.

VA aren’t enjoying such a good season, but they’ve had a succession of injury problems partly to thank for that. Renaud Cohade and Gregory Pujol could miss this fixture, while Mamadou Samassa’s participation would be considered a risk. These issues are only the tip of a much greater iceberg, though Rafael is closing in on a return.

The visiting boss has no such problems. Mevlut Erding is expected to return to his squad, but the Turkish player may have to wait to break into the team after a run of excellent play from the capital side. A 3-1 win over Brest last weekend highlighted their mental strength, with Ludovic Giuly outstanding.

Olympique Lyonnais – Toulouse

Lyon’s troubled season may have seen them stumble again in the Champions League against minnows Hapoel Tel Aviv, scoring late on to secure a 2-2 home draw, but they remain in title contention and will hope to pick up three valuable points against a Toulouse side starting to find their way again.

Claude Puel does have injury problems going into this fixture as Yoann Gourcuff has already been ruled out once more, joining Ederson, Clement Grenier and Cesar Delgado in the stands. OL don’t have any injury problems and will be hoping for a better performance than they mustered as they tiptoed by Montpellier last weekend.

No Ligue 1 side has a better record on the road than Toulouse, and Alain Casanova will be quietly confident that his men have the potential to take something away from Stade Gerland. Daniel Braaten has been ruled out for a month, while Mauro Cetto is not yet ready to return. Xavier Pentecote and Yohann Pele are long-term issues.

Monaco – Saint-Etienne

It’s been another miserable week for Monaco, who will hope to lift some of the gloom surrounding the club by defeating draw specialists Saint-Etienne in the principality on Sunday afternoon.

Last weekend les Monegasques were defeated 1-0 by Rennes, but they would suffer another damaging blow in the press only days later when Alejandro Alonso revealed discord in the changing room. Guy Lacombe is on the defensive but will be pleased with the options he has available; only Vincent Muratori and Cedric Mongongu are injury problems. Dieumerci Mbokani returns after missing out last weekend due to disciplinary problems.

Sainte, meanwhile, have been frustrated to a series of draws. Last weekend they had a bundle of chances to defeat Bordeaux but lost a late goal from a set-piece and had to settle for a 2-2 draw. Christophe Galtier has no fresh injury problems and goes looking for his team to break a nine-game winless streak.

Girondins de Bordeaux – Stade Rennais

Ligue 1’s weekend action concludes when Bordeaux host Rennes on Sunday night. Les Girondins have enjoyed a lengthy unbeaten run but will be put to the test against the Bretons, who have been going well this season.

Jean Tigana watched Fernando head a last minute equalizer against Saint-Etienne last weekend but will be less pleased with the injury situation at the club. Benoit Tremoulinas and Ludovic Sane both picked up problems last weekend and the latter looks set to miss out. With Matthieu Chalme still absent, it could mean some creative shuffling to find a right-back.

Rennes haven’t registered any fresh selection problems this week. A 1-0 victory over Monaco at home last Saturday was a solid if unspectacular effort, and les Rouge et Noir remain in a lofty third position. Frederic Antonetti’s side have been tough to beat, but a lack of punch has cost them valuable points.

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