After several days in which terrorist attacks dominated the news headlines in France and many other parts of the World, the weekend French sporting events were characterised by tributes to those people who lost their lives, with the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ slogan symbolising the reaction of many people to the horrifying events. There were moments of impeccably observed silence and applause prior to professional football matches after which a series of results in Ligue 1 provided evidence that this could be one of the most thrilling title races since Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) began to dominate proceedings.
Since PSG benefited from Qatar investment, they have won the French Ligue 1 title in successive seasons via 9 and 12 point margins, but having lost two recent matches, Laurent Blanc’s team now occupy fourth position after 20 of the 38 games season and are four points behind current leaders Lyon. There appears to be some disharmony in the ranks with strikers Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi incurring the wrath of the management team and they suffered a 4-2 weekend defeat at Bastia after surrendering an early two goal lead.
PSG are still favourites to retain the French crown but just one point earned from their three previous matches has allowed the other title challengers to profit from their current woes. Leaders Lyon, in particular, are thriving at the moment with five successive league victories and Alexandre Lacazette has scored eight goals in those games. Lacazette has already netted 19 league goals this term but Lyon could suffer should he succumb to injury as they lack the financial resources to spend money in the transfer window.
Lyon have assumed the leadership of Ligue following the 2-1 defeat of Marseille by Montpellier. Marseille have led the league table for much of the current campaign, but a sequence of five away matches without a victory, during which only one point has been earned, has seriously undermined their title prospects although they remain a dominant force at Stade Velodrome where they have registered nine consecutive league wins.
Meanwhile Saint Etienne have suddenly become involved in the title reckoning. The team suffered from a goal drought during autumn and were earning too many draws to mount an effective challenge at the top of the table but a last minute goal conceded in their 2-1 weekend victory at Reims ended a sequence of five successive clean sheets in Ligue 1 and they have amassed 16 points from their previous 6 matches. Now occupying third position in the league table, Saint Etienne have not been beaten since losing 1-0 at home to Toulouse back in early October. With Monaco also improving following a slow start to the campaign, the next few months in Ligue 1 could be intriguing.
After a few days in France during which any thoughts of football were overshadowed by events in Paris, an exciting climax to the Ligue 1 season could serve as a real boost to a nation shocked by the images portrayed on national television.