Ligue 1 Preview: Round 6

Le Championnat continues to be thoroughly unpredictable this season. previews the action from the sixth week of action...
Saturday, September 18, 2010 (all kick-off times CET)

19:00 Lorient – Caen
19:00 Monaco – Toulouse
19:00 Nancy – Stade Brestois
19:00 Saint-Etienne – Montpellier
19:00 Sochaux – Nice
19:00 Valenciennes – Racing Club de Lens
21:00 Arles-Avignon – Olympique de Marseille

Sunday, September 19

17:00 Lille - Auxerre
17:00 Paris Saint-Germain – Stade Rennais
21:00 Girondins de Bordeaux – Olympique Lyonnais (preview)

Lorient – Caen

After a fairly slow start to the season, in which they’ve recorded just one victory, Lorient will be aiming to defeat Caen on their artificial pitch on Saturday evening.

Christian Gourcuff’s side were poor as they drew 0-0 with Brest last Sunday and were somewhat undeserving of the point they claimed. On the positive side of things for the coach, les Merlus defeated Lyon 2-0 in their last home game, while he should also have a full complement of first XI players to select from. Lamine Kone is continuing his rehabilitation from injury, while Olivier Monterrubio is carrying a knock too.

Caen have raised eyebrows early this term, picking up eight points, though they’ve not won since defeating Marseille and Lyon back-to-back on the opening weeks of the season. Injuries have posed problems for head coach Franck Dumas, though he can welcome back Gregory Leca back into his matchday squad for this encounter. Sambou Yatabare serves the second of a three game ban.

Monaco – Toulouse

Saturday evening’s fixture list has thrown up some mouth-watering ties, though Toulouse’s visit to the Stade Louis II is arguably the pick of these.

Les Monegasques have started the season strongly but have drawn too many games to really be up at the summit. Indeed, les Rouge et Blanc were left frustrated as a late Adriano own goal prevented them from gathering another three points against Marseille last weekend in a match Monaco twice led in but were ultimately held 2-2. There have been no reports of fresh injury issues.

Toulouse boasted a perfect record in the top flight until last weekend’s hosting of Saint-Etienne, where they were defeated 1-0. Alain Casanova’s men struggled to get a foothold against les Verts and fully deserved their defeat. Le Tefece shouldn’t have too many injury issues, though Xavier Pentecote is a long-term problem.

Nancy – Stade Brestois

Without playing especially well, Nancy have moved to pick up seven points this season and lie comfortably in the middle of the table approaching the weekend visit of Brest, a side who have not been adequately rewarded in points for the early season endeavours.

Pablo Correa’s side claimed a 2-1 success over Montpellier last weekend but made life hard for themselves by earning their fourth red card in just five fixtures when Joel Sami was sent-off early in the second half with his side two goals to the good. ASNL were forced to ride their luck at times in the remainder of the game, and will have to do without the suspended Sami this weekend. Youssouf Hadji is also banned, while Pascal Berenguer joins Paul Afo’o Efoulou on the sidelines. Mickael Chretien is doubtful.

Brest have only accrued five points to date this term, but they’ve outperformed their points total, enjoying long periods of dominance in games only to lack creative nous in the final third of the field. This was evident last weekend as they were held 0-0 against Lorient last weekend, despite dominating the closing stages.

Saint-Etienne – Montpellier

Having fought relegation for the last two season, Saint-Etienne are on course for a far better campaign this time around, earning ten early season points to quickly shuffle Christophe Galtier’s side away from the foot of the table ahead of an awkward looking meeting against Montpellier.

Sainte moved to strengthen their defence in the summer and are reaping the benfits of a more stable back four. They rarely looked troubled against Toulouse last weekend and will be reinforced by the return of Gonzalo Bergessio and Loic Perrin for this encounter. Boubacar Sanogo is injured, but in the form of Dimitri Payet they boast Ligue 1’s top scorer with four goals.

A 2-1 home reverse by Nancy last weekend was Montpellier’s first loss of the season, and they’ll rue the fact that they couldn’t be a more proactive offensive force during the second half of that fixture, when their guests were reduced to ten men. That was the first time MHSC had even conceded this term, though they’ve only scored twice. Emir Spahic is set to miss this game.

Sochaux – Nice

Tipped for relegation at the start of the season, Sochaux have done superbly well to defy expectations in the early weeks of the campaign, winning seven points. Against an inspired Nice side, les Lionceaux will have their work cut out on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Teddy Richert remains the only major absentee in the ranks of the home side, who have gone unbeaten at home thus far.

Les Aiglons have been on superb form, meanwhile. Under Eric Roy, they’ve suddenly jumped into the position of being a side who look capable of making a push for Europe, having made an astute offensive signing in the form of Danijel Ljuboja. Drissa Diakite may well miss out, but les Aiglons should have all of their other big guns fit and ready to play.

Valenciennes – Racing Club de Lens

Lens lost the Derby du Nord against Lille in controversial circumstances last weekend but will be forced to bounce back in another local affair when they meet Valenciennes on Saturday evening.

VA picked up an excellent draw against Lyon last weekend, levelling the match thanks to a thumping second half header from Gaetan Bong. Head coach Philippe Montanier welcomed back Carlos Sanchez to training this week, though he probably won’t be back in contention for a first team place until November. As many as seven Valenciennes players could be sidelined for this game, with Bobo Balde a new problem.

Les Sang et Or were highly critical of referee Tony Chapron after their 4-1 defeat against LOSC last weekend, during which they had two players dismissed around the half-time mark. Jean-Guy Wallemme’s side clung on well but capitulated late on, conceding three times in quick succession. Samba Sow is out injured, while Sebastien Routed and Issam Jemaa are both banned after being dismissed.

Arles-Avignon – Olympique de Marseille

It’s been a bad week for both Arles and Marseille, and both will be keen for the three points on Saturday night to ease talk of crisis at their respective clubs.

ACA have lost all five of their Ligue 1 games to date, including last weekend’s encounter against PSG, in which they were whipped 4-0. Worse was to follow over the course of the week, which saw head coach Michel Estevan sacked after a long-running dispute with the club’s board. Lacking cohesion and direction, it will take a monumental effort for the Championnat debutants to pick up their first points against the champions.

Strangely, Arles pinching a draw against OM isn’t the most unlikely scenario given les Phoceens’ poor play of late. They were beaten 1-0 at home against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday evening to get their Champions League campaign off to the worst possible start, and Didier Deschamps’ men, who have won only once in the league this season, will be without Loic Remy due to injury once more. Additionally, Souleymane Diawara is a big doubt.

Lille – Auxerre

Both Lille and Auxerre slipped to European defeats in midweek, and after drawing an aggregate of eight Ligue 1 games between them this season, both are in need of the three points to boost their league challenge.

Much was expected of Rudi Garcia’s side prior to the season’s kick-off. Last term they had narrowly missed out on third, which Auxerre pinched from them on the final day of the season, and they finished top scorers in Ligue 1. Despite keeping the vast majority of the squad together, they’ve been unable to replicate such scoring form and lost 2-1 to Sporting CP at home. Aurelien Chedjou is doubtful, along with Franck Beria and Tulio de Melo.

Less was expected of AJA, whose target is simply to stay in Ligue 1 this term. The Burgundy club gave a good account of themselves during their match away in Milan, though ultimately lost 2-0. Alexandre Licata is the only absentee from Jean Fernandez’s side, who don’t have a great deal of depth to their team.

Paris Saint-Germain – Stade Rennais

After a pre-international break stutter in which they lost three successive games, Antoine Kombouare’s PSG side are now back on track and looking to complete a hat-trick of victories when they play Rennes on Sunday.

Victory over Sevilla on Thursday evening with a largely fringe selection was a huge boost for les Parisiens, who snatched victory thanks to a goal from Nene, one of the few established first team players to be involved in the starting XI in Andalucia. And it was a thoroughly deserved success too, though not as routine as last Saturday’s 4-0 romp against Arles.

Rennes are in the midst of their best start to a Ligue 1 season for over four decades and are already being tipped as likely title condenders should the big guns continue to misfire on a regular basis. The Bretons had hoped to welcome back Rod Fanni into their side, though he aggravated his adductor problem in training on Wednesday and has been ruled out. Don’t expect many changes in their ranks from the 2-1 victory they achieved over Sochaux in their previous match.

Click here to follow the Twitter feed and join USA's Facebook fan page!