Ligue 1 Team of the Week
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Paris Saint-Germain ended a busy week in Ligue 1 by retaking top spot for the first time since early November with their home win over Lyon.
However, it was a double week of fixtures in France's top flight with Carlo Ancelotti's men having already thumped Valenciennes 4-0 at the Stade du Hainaut heading into the clash. Marseille are back on song thanks to the return of Andre-Pierre Gignac after the Frenchman returned to former club Toulouse to send OM joint top.
Montpellier finally showed their mettle too with a 4-0 win over dwindling Bastia that was highlighted by Marco Estrada's outrageous volley. Elsewhere, Troyes secured a massive win in the basement battle over Ajaccio on Saturday, but it wasn't straight forward. Lorient and Nice continued their fantastic runs too, slipping in just behind the top three.
Given the high amount of goals in the past week, this selection has a more attacking feel to it.
Sirigu once again vital between the sticks.
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It was two clean sheets in two games for the Italian, who kept PSG's 10th clean sheet of the season against Lyon on Sunday.
Although not overworked against either Valenciennes or OL, he came up big when his side needed him most and even had fortune on his side when facing Lisandro Lopez's effort that hit the woodwork.
Since joining the capital club, Sirigu has been in superb form and was undoubtedly last season's goalkeeper of the season. This year the Italian international has picked up where he left off, with two massive wins for he and his teammates heading toward the winter break.
Digne makes an impression vs. Toulouse.
Having watched the full 90 minutes of Lille's clash with Toulouse, whilst being left with plenty of questions regarding Les Dogue´s chances of success for the rest of the season, one player did impress me.
Lucas Digne was impressive throughout the whole 90 minutes, not necessarily for making a telling contribution, but more for the way that he plays and his confidence and composure that belie his 19 years of age. Digne's foraging runs down the left and superb crossing give Lille an added danger on the flanks where they already boast the likes of Dimitri Payet and Mathieu Debuchy.
Expect more from Digne in the future.
Silva's tackle vital in the build-up to Matuidi's goal vs. OL.
The Brazilian international has excelled in PSG's back line since being handed the captaincy, and his commanding performance against Lyon justifies his status as one of the world´s best defenders.
Responsible for starting the move which resulted in Blaise Matuidi's headed goal against Lyon, Silva was instrumental for PSG in the past week and helped keep two clean sheets. No doubt the brains in the defence whilst Alex and Mamadou Sakho provide the muscle, the back four look better for the Sakho/Silva pairing exhibited on Sunday at the Parc des Princes.
Sane helps Bordeaux to 0-0 with Saint-Etienne.
Despite not enjoying the best of weeks, Bordeaux's Ludovic Sane helped Les Girondins claim two points in difficult circumstances.
First a 0-0 draw with Saint-Etienne before a late 1-1 draw with strugglers Nancy was not ideal for Bordeaux as it leaves them in seventh place. However Sane looked good in defence for Francis Gillot's men, the 25-year-old has really made the position his own since the summer departure of Mickael Ciani.
Estrada's sumptuous strike vs. Bastia.
The Chilean is something of an unsung hero in Ligue 1 having anchored Montpellier's midfield since 2010 and also helping them to last season's title success. Never one for scoring tap-ins, Estrada's thumping 14th-minute effort in Saturday's victory over Bastia is reason enough for him to make this week's best XI.
That is his second goal of the season having netted in Week 8's triumph over Evian, and despite Montpellier's struggles, Estrada has enjoyed a consistent season. It was a much-needed win for Rene Girard's men over Bastia and a return to the sort of form we grew accustomed to seeing from La Paillade last year.
Traore's superb goal vs. Sochaux.
The Burkinabe international has been a revelation for new club Lorient since the start of the season. He started fast last year for former club Auxerre before fading in the second half of the campaign but, this year in a better team, he looks capable of going the distance.
He has six goals and four assists this year from attacking midfield, with two of those goals last week against Sochaux and Saint-Etienne. Les Merlus are now up to fourth as their fantastic form continues and Traore is pulling the strings, with his fantastic strike against Les Lionceaux on Wednesday capping a brilliant week for him.
Payet's wonderful strike vs Toulouse.
Criticised by Lille boss Rudi Garcia recently, Payet answered his coach's complaints with a well-timed double for Les Dogues as they continue to struggle this season. Lille currently sit in 11th place but it would be worse were it not for the flying wing wizard, with his vital equaliser away to Brest on Saturday his second goal in a week.
Witness his sublime strike against Toulouse just days before though, as the wonder goal helped his side to a precious three points at home to Toulouse. Those goals take Payet's season total to five, and Lille will need a few more before the season is out.
Aliadiere's strike vs Saint-Etienne.
Another key component is Lorient's good form this season has been the heroic return of Jeremie Aliadiere to form.
The former Arsenal striker has been vital for Les Merlus this season, contributing seven goals and five assists in 16 appearances. The most recent of which came against high-flying Saint-Etienne when he netted the opener as Lorient went on to win 2-0.
That is the Breton club's fourth win consecutively, a new top-flight record for the ambitious outfit. Aliadiere is making up for lost time by finally putting his injury woes behind him to enjoy a first full half-season since the start of his career. Let's hope it continues.
Gignac's brilliant strike vs former club Toulouse.
Having made his first appearance in two months against Bastia in midweek, Andre-Pierre Gignac returned to the Marseille lineup in time to face former side Toulouse at the Stade Municipal. His return to the Pink City was a triumphant one, netting the winner to put Marseille level on points at the top of Ligue 1.
That the Frenchman's sixth goal of a campaign that started so well but was derailed by injury, back in action and back in form though. His finish against TFC was sublime in a flashback to the Gignac of old who made the Stade Municipal his stamping ground when in the violet shirt.
His career total on that ground now stands at 22, his best anywhere in France.
Zlatan bags his first Ligue 1 hat-trick vs. Valenciennes.
It´s all in a day’s work for Ibra; first he bags a hat-trick away to Valenciennes before laying on PSG's winner in the top-of-the-table clash against Lyon. It caps a fantastic week for the Swede who has now provided 21 of the capital club's 33 goals this season, which is a phenomenal contribution considering that he is not Lionel Messi.
The treble against VAFC is his first in Ligue 1 and his third league career hat-trick overall. With Ibrahimovic in this sort of form, you don´t want to bet against PSG's title chances. His tally of 17 goals and three assists made more remarkable by the fact that it has only taken him 15 appearances to reach that mark.
Eagle-eyed Cvitanich for Nice vs. Evian.
The Argentine's superlative form continued following his late equaliser at Troyes last weekend. Cvitanich bagged three in Nice's doubleheader with Rennes and Evian that saw Claude Puel's side take six points to move into fifth in the table.
The former Ajax man's match-winner against Rennes was vital, but his double against Evian was arguably more impressive as it maintains his incredible goal-scoring streak. Bear in mind this guy only scored his first league goal until Week 7 and we are now in Week 18!
The Argentine becomes Nice's first player to have scored 10 goals at the halfway stage of a Ligue 1 season since Loic Remy in 2009. But more impressively he is the only player in the league who contributes more to his team's success than Ibra, accounting for 11 of Nice's 26 goals.