When Ligue 1 wrapped up its fixtures before the winter break on Sunday, there were reiterations of years past, and fresh hope for other lesser known sides who are performing well. Unsurprisingly, Paris Saint-Germain top the table with a comfortable cushion of 13 points. However, Monaco are on their second manager this season, and look a shadow of the team that felled some of Europe’s elite in the Champions League two seasons ago. Granted, their depatures of Fabinho, Thomas Lemar, and Kylian Mbappé are not easy to replace, but very few people predicted that Monaco would get eliminated during the Group Stage in the Champions League and have a relegation fight on their hands.
On a more positive note, Lille, Montpellier, and Saint-Etienne have ascended the table and are in the thick of a competitive fight to secure one of the coveted European places that are awarded to the Top 4 at the end of the year. For sides like Marseille and Nice who find themselves farther down the table, there are still plenty of matches left to complete a turnaround and get back into European competition next season.
What this tells us is that Ligue 1 is still as non-competitive as it usually is. PSG still dominate the league with talent that is only challenged in the Champions League. Meanwhile, the rest of the pack is mostly a toss-up with teams like Nice, Monaco, and Lyon usually putting out quality sides to challenge for the European places in Ligue 1. However, this year has yielded a resurgence of the former champions Montpellier and Lille, but at the expense of sides like Marseille and Nice who find themselves in the middle of the pack.
Before I continue with a second half preview, let’s look at the final fixtures from this past weekend.
Last Matchday Results
Bordeaux 1-1 SC Amiens
Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 Nantes
Angers 1-1 Marseille
Monaco 0-2 Guingamp
Lille 1-2 Toulouse
Montpellier 1-1 Lyon
Saint-Etienne 3-0 Dijon
Stade de Reims 2-2 Caen
Stade de Rennes 4-0 Nimes
Strasbourg 2-0 Nice
Matches resume on January 8, 2019
Now, a preview for the second half.
PSG’s dominance will continue through the end of the season, and they could drop points due to squad rotation associated with European football, but that’s really the only time we could be discussing shocking results for the Parisians. As for the rest of the pack, many of the clubs that find themselves outside the top spot could face fierce competition for European places. Lyon should maintain a European place, but could easily grab one of the two guaranteed Champions League places, but they should at least grab third and book a place in the final qualifying stage for the Champions League. Other sides may have a tougher task as both Nice and Marseille would have to go on fantastic runs of form while sides like Montpellier and Lille would have to slip up in order to vacate these places. I won’t say it is impossible, but Ligue 1’s best results this term could be the surprise teams that qualify for Europe over more established sides.
As for the bottom of the table, there appear to be five or six sides who have a series chance of being in the relegation scrap, but Guingamp is firmly rooted in the bottom of the table along with Monaco and Dijon. The most surprising team in the scrap is Monaco, but they have their second manager and have looked shambolic for most of the season. In looking at the squad, I would not be surprised if Monaco found themselves plying their trade next season in the French second tier. That said, they also have a squad ravaged by injuries, and could force Caen, Dijon, or SC Amiens into one of the relegation places if their healthy squad can rally a few wins.
With all that said, I will leave you with my end of season projections:
Player of the Year: Kylian Mbappé
Top Scorer: Kylian Mbappé
Most Clean Sheets: Benjamin Lecomte
Final Table Prediction
PSG (champion, automatic Champions League qualification)
Lyon (automatic Champions League qualification)
Lille (qualification for Best Finish Playoff for Champions League)
Marseille (automatic Europa League qualification)
Montpellier (playoff for Europa League Final Qualifying Stage due to PSG’s cup victory)
Stade de Rennes
Stade de Reims
Monaco (relegation playoff)