Ligue 1 Final Weekend: What Is at Stake?
With the Ligue 1 title and two of the relegation places already sewn up before this weekend’s final round of matches, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there is little left to play for in France’s top-flight league.
Sunday’s climax to the 2012/13 season should witness a frantic fight for the third and final Champions League qualification spot and with it, the Europa League berth in fourth place.
With Saint-Etienne already qualified for Europe thanks to their League Cup victory over Rennes at the Stade de France in April, they can go one better by securing Champions League action when they travel to Lille.
The 2011 champions have rediscovered their form since the turn of the year and gone from mid-table mediocrity to the verge of Europe’s top club competition when all had seemed lost.
Christophe Galtier’s Saint-Etienne are also on the verge of an impressive feat of their own. Not only have they already guaranteed a first piece of silverware in 32 years, they are currently set to better last season’s seventh-place finish by at least three positions.
The matchup is the pick of the bunch in Ligue 1 on the final day, and it is likely where the most drama will happen. It is a direct shootout between the pair for the final Champions League berth, and it is an intriguing clash.
Lille are organised, disciplined and a well-oiled outfit under coach Rudi Garcia; Les Verts, under Galtier, play perhaps some of the most free-flowing, entertaining football in the league.
A win for either side is futile though if Lyon, currently in third place, beat mid-table Rennes. The Breton side will be boosted by the news that highly rated Real Sociedad coach Philippe Montanier has opted to join them, but they are currently in poor form.
Lyon, meanwhile, have done their best to throw away Champions League qualification, dropping points against Bastia, Sochaux and Reims earlier in the season to destroy their title ambitions.
Remi Garde’s side know that a victory will clinch third place, but anything less could allow bitter rivals Saint-Etienne to sneak it.
The match is Rennes coach Frederic Antonetti’s last with the club; what a fitting way it would be to end his inconsistent reign in charge at the Stade de la Route de Lorient than with a win at Lyon having dropped points against so many smaller opponents recently.
Dark horses for that final Champions League spot are Nice, though. Claude Puel is making miracles on the Cote d’Azur currently and has taken a side that narrowly avoided relegation last season with a deceiving 13th-placed finish, despite securing their top-flight status with a 4-3 final day win over Lyon, to the cusp of Europe.
Les Aiglons are a young, vibrant side that play a refreshing brand of attacking football with a large amount of pace. Puel has overhauled the squad since that final day victory over his former side, and, with it, overhauled his reputation. He left Lyon after a bitter end to his time at the Stade de Gerland that ended with him taking the club to court in 2011, per Goal.com.
Since then, Puel has burst back onto the domestic scene and is making up for lost time. Though his Nice side might not be able to keep a hold of all of their best talent this summer, a Europa League campaign would be a superb achievement for a club that looked destined for Ligue 2 one year ago.
They travel to Ajaccio, who are all but mathematically safe from the drop.
A heavy defeat for the Corsicans, coupled with a big win for fellow strugglers Troyes, could prove pivotal at both ends of the table.
There is more excitement at the bottom too. Troyes are fighting for their lives against relegation and could send Sochaux down, ending a 12 season stay in France’s top flight for Les Lionceaux.
Jean-Marc Furlan’s Troyes side have played some excellent football this season even though they don’t have the results to prove it, whilst Eric Hely’s Sochaux have been uninspiring and insipid at times.
That said, they have beaten Carlo Ancelotti’s champions Paris Saint-Germain and Champions League-chasing Lyon in 2013, so they have the potential to beat anyone on their day. Unfortunately, their days are few and far between.
Sochaux travel to mid-table Bastia while Troyes are at Valenciennes, two similar sides, so it is a question of who can do better on the day to decide the final spot in the drop zone.
All to play for then on the final day, and it looks very enticing indeed at the top end of the table. Lyon will start the day as favourites given that they are currently two points clear of bitter rivals Saint-Etienne. But given the frantic nature of Ligue 1 final days in the past, don’t expect this to be clear-cut.
AS Monaco, Ligue 2 champions this season, were relegated two seasons ago despite being in 11th place in the table at one stage of the final day. Expect that Champions League spot to change hands a few times before eventually settling with one side in a dramatic finale.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?