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Ligue 1

Ligue 1: Summer, Europe And The Race For Second Place

Ligue 1
Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso (R) celebrates with teammate French forward Kylian Mbappé after scoring during the French Ligue 1 football match between Bordeaux and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at The Mamut Atlantique Stadium in Bordeaux on April 22, 2018. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)

The front page of L’Equipe on Monday morning said it all, “Summer’s Already Here.” The European underachievers of Unai Emery’s Paris Saint-Germain were already looking forward to their summer holidays (and perhaps the FIFA World Cup) and it showed in their 1-0 victory over Gus Poyet’s Girondins de Bordeaux at the Matmut Atlantique.

Giovani Lo Celso scored in the 76th minute for PSG and he and goalkeeper Alphonse Areola were best on ground for the visitors, Areola more so with his best performance of his career, a Ligue 1 record eight saves to go with a key stoppage time sweep by Yuri Berchiche. With the win, Paris Saint-Germain have a record of 29-3-2 (90 points), 20 points ahead of Leonardo Jardim’s AS Monaco and 21 ahead of Bruno Genesio’s Olympique Lyonnais and Rudi Garcia’s Olympique de Marseille.

Speaking of Monaco, the Monegasques were shockingly bad away to Antoine Kombouare’s EA Guingamp. The outgoing champions never mentally recovered from their cataclysmic demise at Le Parc des Princes and were taken to task by En Avant in a 3-1 scalp rivaling Strasbourg’s historic upset win over PSG at the Stade de La Meinau earlier this year. Guingamp’s next opponent is Paris.

Monaco are 21-7-6 (70 points) and are on a two-game losing streak, a rarity given their otherwise stable form this season. As for the two Olympique sides, they have cashed in on the Monegasques’ ghastly display away with massive scorelines to boot.

Like the always in-form women’s team, Lyon are roaring and are the team with the form in the competition despite PSG wrapping up the Hexagoal. Unlike Monaco, Lyon were dominant on the road, thrashing Olivier Dall’Oglio’s Dijon FCO 5-2. Lyon have a balanced attack and could potentially finish second ahead of Monaco, as seen by the production of its usual suspects: Memphis Depay (4′), Nabil Fekir (53′), Bertrand Traore (77′) and Maxwel Cornet (82′).

But it is Marseille who are still alive in European competition for France and in order for them to be in the UEFA Champions League group stage, they need to first figure out Red Bull Salzburg in the UEFA Europa League semifinals. To do this, they’ll have to prepare well and that’s exactly what they did in their 5-1 smashing of relegation (and perhaps worse) bound Lille OSC at the Orange Velodrome. Florian Thauvin (12′, 30′) and Kostas Mitroglou (35, 38′) will need to be at the best this week, as Salzburg wore Marseille like a glove in the group stage.

Records-wise, Lyon and Marseille are on 69 points with 20-9-5 records and Lyon superior on goal differential, +39 to +31. At the very worst, OM will have another go-around of the Europa League next year. Their only remaining challenge in the league is OGC Nice, on May 6 at home. This is also the case for Lyon, who host Nice on May 19 in the final weekend of league action.

Interestingly, with a record of 14-8-12 (50 points), Nice are also on pace to qualify for the Europa League but the Eagles to hold off Saint-Etienne and Rennes. On top of that, if PSG successfully defend their Coupe de France against Les Herbiers, ASSE would then be in position to occupy the last European qualification spot and if OM win the Europa League, Rennes would then get a spot in the Europa League next season.

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How fitting must it be in the French Republic that the two teams who contest the great domestic derby known as Le Classique, Paris and Marseille ultimately determine Ligue 1’s delegation in European competition. Combined with the three-team race for second and Champions League berths on the line, these last few weeks of football in France are going to be an absolute joy to watch. Summer may already be here for Parisians the world over, but outside of the nation’s capital, the race for second place is far from over.

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