Ligue 1 Preview: Round 16

Le Championnat remains incredibly tight from top to bottom, meaning each match is of importance...
Saturday, December 4, 2010 (all kick-off times CET)

19:00 Arles-Avignon – Nancy
19:00 Racing Club de Lens – Auxerre
19:00 Lille – Lorient
19:00 Stade Rennais – Monaco
19:00 Sochaux – Valenciennes
19:00 Toulouse – Caen
21:00 Montpellier – Olympique Lyonnais (preview)

Sunday, December 5

17:00 Nice – Olympique de Marseille
17:00 Paris Saint-Germain – Stade Brestois
21:00 Saint-Etienne – Girondins de Bordeaux

Arles-Avignon – Nancy

Bottom club Arles continue to sink quickly to a quick relegation back to Ligue 2, and if they are to somehow avoid the drop then it is in matches such as Saturday’s against Nancy in which they will have to start earning points.

Faruk Hadzibegic’s men had threatened something of a renaissance after their coach was appointed to take the reins from Michel Estevan a couple of months ago, but they are again back on a losing streak after slipping against Valenciennes last weekend. Thomas Ayasse is missing due to injury once more.

Nancy boast one of the most impressive away records in Ligue 1 this season and should fancy their chances of picking up three points. Michael Chretien continues to miss out for Pablo Correa’s men, who will also be without Reynald Lemaitre due to injury. They are otherwise expected to be at full strength and will want to build on a positive draw against Saint-Etienne last weekend.

Racing Club de Lens – Auxerre

After a positive run of results, Lens have suffered two damaging losses in succession. A fortnight ago they were unable to get the better of Olympique Lyonnais, despite a bright first half showing, and in midweek their replayed game against Stade Brestois proved to be a disaster as they went down 4-1.

Jean-Guy Wallemme needs more from his side, who are sitting second bottom of the table. Samba Sow and Darnel Situ are available for the weekend clash against AJA, but there is still some time before Issam Jemaa will be injury free.

Auxerre had chronic selection problems going into this week, with a host of first team players out due to injury, but their worries have got greater in recent days as it has been announced that Delvin N’Dinga will miss this fixture. With a fixture against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu forthcoming, Jean Fernandez has some real headaches.

Lille – Lorient

Wednesday’s midweek Europa League tie against Sporting didn’t go the way of Lille, but Rudy Garcia’s side will approach Saturday’s fixture against Lorient with a fair degree of confidence, not least because their visitors have struggled on the road all season.

LOSC have only one serious injury concern, that coming in the form of Gervinho, who didn’t travel to Portugal in midweek due to a muscle complaint. Garcia will implement wholesale changes in the team that started in Portugal, with all of the first team regulars left on the bench reinstated after a midweek rest.

Lorient are slowly climbing back up the Ligue 1 table, defeating Rennes last weekend. On the road Christian Gourcuff’s side have constantly struggled and will not be fancied on Saturday. Bruno Ecuele continues to miss out and he is joined on the sidelines by Sigamary Diarra, the club’s regular left winger.

Stade Rennais – Monaco

Rennes missed the chance to go joint top of Ligue 1 on Wednesday evening when they were held to a 0-0 draw against Marseille away from home. Frederic Antonetti would be displeased with the full-time result because his side contrived to miss an early penalty, though their defending at times was a little suspect.

The Bretons have won only once in league play since moving to the summit of the standings in early October, with a lack of goal scoring power their problem. At the weekend their issues tend to come in defence, where Kader Mangane and Kevin Theophile are doubts. Onyekachi Apam is missing from the rearguard, while Fabien Lemoine and Sylvain Marveaux will take no part either.

Monaco don’t have any severe selection issues, with their absent players little more than bench-warmers. They do, however, severely lack form. Guy Lacombe’s side have fallen towards the foot of the table and are not functioning smoothly at present. This is especially noticeable in attack, where the coach has stated his desire for more from summer signing Dieumerci Mbokani.

Sochaux – Valenciennes

Confidence will be high in Montbeliard, where Sochaux will defend a home record that is presently Le Championnat’s best. Les Lionceaux even managed to chalk up their first away win of the season last weekend when they smashed a Caen side who are in freefall 3-0.

Goals are rarely a problem for Francis Gillot’s attack-minded outfit, though they will be without playmaker in chief Marvin Martin this weekend. There are numerous other selection problems, including Jacques Faty and Yassin Mikari, who will be out for around another two months after undergoing surgery to cure a persistent problem. Teddy Richert is back training with the squad after serious injury.

Valenciennes are a team with widespread injury issues but that did not stop Philippe Montanier’s men earning a deserved 1-1 draw with Saint-Etienne in midweek. Rafael should feature for the reserves in the coming weeks, but VA are still badly depleted and are likely to be missing eight or nine squad players.

Toulouse – Caen

Alain Casanova’s Toulouse side may boast the best away record in France’s top flight in terms of points won, but it’s their credentials in the Pink City that are seriously under question. Le Tefece haven’t gone well since August, yet they claimed a victory last weekend over Auxerre in Burgundy and should at least have some confidence.

Federico Santander scored his first goal for le Tefece last weekend but may struggle to make the cut at the weekend because of a mildly twisted knee. Otherwise the issues in the camp are very much the same as they have been for the last few weeks; Yohann Pele, Soren Larsen and Xavier Pentecote all miss out.

If Toulouse have taken a fall from grace since August, Caen have plummeted dramatically. Les Malherbes have lost all of their last six fixtures and over the course of those games they’ve leaked a very worrying 20 goals. Having lost at home to the poorest away team in the league in the form of Sochaux last weekend, a defeat against one of the weakest home teams would be very damaging.

Nice – Olympique de Marseille

Nice picked up a brave point against Monaco at the Stade Louis II last weekend, but they’re sure to be more severely tested by Marseille on Sunday afternoon.

Les Aiglons managed to hold les Rouge et Blanc last weekend, despite playing for over an hour with 10 men. Eric Roy’s side contained their opponents impressively for the most part and quickly replied when they fell a goal behind. Didier Digard could be drafted back into the squad for the visit of OM, but there are a number of problems lingering in the Nice camp.

Marseille’s injury position is very different from their hosts in that they can boast an almost complete squad of players. Hilton is missing due to injury, but Andre-Pierre Gignac should be back to lead the line. Though there is a Champions League match forthcoming against Chelsea, it is of little importance and Didier Deschamps will instead focus on solidifying their place atop Ligue 1.

Paris Saint-Germain – Stade Brestois

Fresh from a magnificent victory against Sevilla in the Europa League on Thursday evening, PSG will attempt to defeat joint Ligue 1 leaders Brest on Sunday afternoon.

Much of les Parisiens’ defending may have been suspect against the Spaniards, but a 4-2 victory will mean that the incisive attacking play displayed will be the aspect of the game most remembered. Another uncertain performance from goalkeeper Apoula Edel has his position as goalkeeper in doubt, especially with Gregory Coupet on the bench. Jean-Eudes Maurice is still injured and Mevlut Erding is doubtful.

Brest also go into this game buoyed by a strong midweek performance. They were excellent in hammering Lens 4-1 on Tuesday night, in a match in which midfielder Bruno Grougi’s performance was simply superb. Larsen Toure and Grandi Ngoyi remain the significant injury doubts in les Ti’Zefs’ side.  

Saint-Etienne – Girondins de Bordeaux

The weekend’s Ligue 1 action concludes at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, where Bordeaux meet with a Saint-Etienne side who have thrown away the lead in each of their last three matches.

Sainte should have almost a full squad of players. Boubacar Sanogo and Yoann Andreu continue to keep the physios busy, while coach Christophe Galtier is more concerned about his side’s propensity to draw 1-1 after striking ahead. In their two recent away games against Nancy and Valenciennes they’ve been rather lucky to earn even a point, so they’ll be going all out to earn the win.

Bordeaux had to come from behind to pick up a 1-1 draw against Lille last weekend, but Jean Tigana’s unit were full value for that success. Henrique had hoped to come back into the first team before Christmas, but it has been revealed this week that he will be out until after the Christmas break along with Marc Planus.

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