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Ligue 1 Preview Gameweek 31

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With PSG already confirmed as champions, all eyes turn to the battle for the top six and the relegation fight as the end of the Ligue 1 campaign draws nearer.

Marseille v Rennes Date 18/03/2016 – Venue – Stade Vélodrome – Kick Off 19:30 (UK Time)

The opening game of the weekend takes place at the Stade Vélodrome, between two sides at the heart of the battle for the European spots. Visitors Rennes already have their hands on a place as they sit 5th, but their hosts Marseille have a lot more to do as they are six points behind in 10th. Les Olympiens’ last five matches have all been 1-1 draws and they need to win on Friday evening to give them a realistic chance of making the top six. Remy Cabella is a doubt with an injury, while Karim Rekik and Benjamin Mendy may be alongside him on the sideline.

A win for Rennes would be a huge result and they could even be a surprise contender for the Champions League if they can establish a run of consistency. They did well to come back from two goals down to rescue a point against Lyon in the last game and they will be the more confident of the two teams heading into Friday’s encounter. Cheikh M’Bengue is the latest absentee for Rennes as he may be forced to sit out with an injury.

Saint-Étienne v Montpellier Date 19/03/2016 – Venue – Stade Geoffroy-Guichard – Kick Off 16:00 (UK Time)

Similar to Marseille, Saint-Étienne are under a bit of pressure as they too are struggling to make the top six this year. Les Verts are only 8th after going five matches without a win, the most recent match was a disappointing 2-0 loss to Guingamp. Saint-Étienne welcome Montpellier to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in the hope of getting back to winning ways. The three points might just get them back amongst the European contenders but with a goal difference below zero, they would have to be at their strongest if they are to make the cut in May. Jonathan Brison might still be absent after ankle surgery, while Renaud Cohade could also be missing through injury.

Montpellier’s last game resulted in a defeat to Nice, leaving them in danger once again. La Paillade are only three points above the bottom three in 15th, so a loss on Saturday could see them drift even closer to the threat of relegation. There are no concerns over the Montpellier side, meaning Frederic Hantz can rely on the usual starting eleven to get them out of trouble.

Angers v Lorient Date 19/03/2016 – Venue – Stade Jean Bouin – Kick Off 19:00 (UK Time)

If Angers are going to put up a challenge for Europe after all their hard work, it’s going to have to come on Saturday when they face a hit-and-miss Lorient side. The hosts spent over half the season in the top six but seven games without a win, including five defeats, has seen them plummet to 12th. Angers have no injuries or suspensions within the team so they can field a full-strength starting line-up.

Visitors Lorient are level on points with Angers with 39, but they are a place above in 11th as they have a superior goal difference. Les Merlus have picked up eight points from their last four games and earned a good result against Marseille in the previous match so they will be the favourites going into this one. Benjamin Moukandjo may spend the last of his weeks on the sideline with calf strain.

Caen v Troyes Date 19/03/2016 – Venue – Stade Michel d’Ornano – Kick Off 19:00 (UK Time)

This is the perfect match for Caen to play as they are trying to get back amongst the top six when they welcome bottom club Troyes to the Stade Michel d’Ornano. With Troyes’ relegation almost inevitable, they are expected to play without fear and while they tried to attack PSG last week, they were duly punished 9-0. A minimum of one more loss could see Troyes relegated. Lossemy Karaboue remains the only player out of action for the away side as he is suspended.

A win for Caen could see them move up two places to 5th, but an issue for the hosts is their goal difference as it’s the worst out of the top 13 Ligue 1 sides. The pressure might have gotten to Caen last weekend as they were on the end of a defeat to relegation-threatened Gazélec Ajaccio; a mistake they must correct on Saturday. Saidi Ntibazonkiza is the latest player to be ruled out for Caen; a meniscus injury may keep him out for four weeks.

Lille v Toulouse Date 19/03/2016 – Venue – Stade Pierre-Mauroy – Kick Off 19:00 (UK Time)

Back-to-back wins has given Lille much more confidence ahead of these final eight games; they have suddenly gone from relegation strugglers to European contenders. Les Dogues have climbed to 9th and a win could see them sneak into the top six if results elsewhere go their way. They have only lost once in their last eight outings and that was a heavy defeat to Montpellier. There are no forced changes to the side that won at the Stade Armand Cesari last weekend, so an unchanged eleven is expected for Lille.

Toulouse’s 4-0 thrashing of Bordeaux last weekend may give them a bit of hope of surviving in Ligue 1. They remain seven points adrift of safety in 19th so a revival is still a big ask, but if they win at least half of their remaining games it may be enough. Alexis Blin remains the only player out for Les Pitchouns with a suspension.

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Reims v Guingamp Date 19/03/2016 – Venue – Stade Auguste Delaune – Kick Off 19:00 (UK Time)

The game of the weekend is at the Stade Auguste Delaune where Guingamp travel to Reims. Both sides are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the league, with the hosts in 17th, two points behind Guingamp in 16th. Neither side is in form; both have lost three of their last five but Guingamp will be the more confident after impressively disposing of Saint-Étienne. Three points for the visitors would give them a bit of breathing space from the danger zone, but they will be without Nill De Pauw and Lionel Mathis.

Reims picked up a good result of their own in the previous game as they got a point against Monaco. If they are going to stay up this season they need to beat the teams around them as well, starting with this match against Guingamp. The latest player to be ruled out for the home side is Diego Rigonato, who is serving a suspension.

Lyon v Nantes Date 19/03/2016 – Venue – Stade des Lumieres – Kick Off 20:00 (UK Time)

As one of the league’s in-form sides, Lyon will be expected to win this match against Nantes but Les Canaris have already produced a number of shock results throughout the campaign. Nantes moved up to 6th place after last week’s triumph over Angers, but the teams below them are in hot pursuit. Only Rennes have beaten Nantes over the past couple of months and the visitors now have a resilient side, which will be tested against a Lyon team that has rediscovered its form. Only Valentin Rongier remains on the sidelines, giving Michel Der Zakarian plenty of options with his team selection.

Lyon have won five out of their last seven games, but a draw against Rennes in the previous game saw them drop to 4th. Les Gones have grown stronger in the second half of the campaign and they are just six points behind Monaco, who hold on to a Champions League spot. With Monaco facing a trip to the Parc des Princes on Sunday, it is vital Lyon win this game to heap the pressure on Leonardo Jardim’s men. Clement Grenier is suspended for Lyon but there are no new concerns over the team.

Bordeaux v Bastia Date 20/03/2016 – Venue – Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux – Kick Off 13:00 (UK Time)

Bordeaux welcome Bastia in another potentially crucial game. Les Girondins are 14th, just one point behind Bastia in 13th and a winner for either side could mean the evasion of the relegation threat. The home side have failed to win in their last four games and have suffered heavy defeats against Reims and Toulouse who are both near the foot of the league table. Bordeaux are in desperate need of a win, but they will have to do it without the suspended Ludovic Lamine Sane.

Bastia are also struggling to find a win after going three games without one; their latest result was a 2-1 home defeat to Lille. A win for the visitors would establish a four-point gap between them and Bordeaux. Lassana Coulibaly could be out of action with a hand fracture, while Yannick Cahuzac and Mehdi Mostefa are both suspended.

Nice v Gazélec Ajaccio Date 20/03/2016 – Venue – Allianz Riviera – Kick Off 16:00 (UK Time)

Just as Gazélec Ajaccio were looking to find a more consistent run of form, they face a trip to 3rd place Nice in what has the potential to be a very exciting game. One team battling for their life at in the relegation zone and another putting in a bid for 2nd place and a spot in next season’s Champions League. The Corsicans are unbeaten in four league games and did well to beat Caen last weekend. They will be without Alexandre Coeff for this game as he is recovering from a thigh injury.

As Monaco are facing a tough match at PSG, it is imperative Nice win at the Allianz Riviera to heap the pressure on them. Les Aiglons have won their last two against Troyes and Montpellier and they should be winning this one against yet another relegation contender. There are no forced changes to the side that won at the Stade de la Mosson so an unchanged starting eleven is expected.

Paris Saint-Germain v Monaco Date 20/03/2016 – Venue – Parc des Princes – Kick Off 20:00 (UK Time)

This would usually be a more enthralling encounter but as PSG have already won the Ligue 1 title, there is little to play for as they welcome Monaco to the Parc des Princes. It’s just a case of racking up as many points as possible for Les Parisians and they can still get 101 points if they win all of their remaining games. There are no recent injuries or suspensions amongst the PSG team, so the same side that annihilated Troyes 9-0 may start on Sunday.

Monaco have Lyon and Nice breathing down their necks, both of whom are expected to win this weekend. Even a point would be a very good result for the visitors but a loss would put them under a bit of pressure ahead of the remaining games this season. They had an eight-point gap a couple of weeks ago, but it could be just two by the end of the weekend. Bernardo Silva and Nabil Dirar remain the only absentees for Monaco as the midfielders are suspended for the trip to the capital.

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About Mark Sheppard

I am an 18-year-old Journalism and Media student at De Montfort University, Leicester. I enjoy writing, especially about sport because my interests involve football, snooker, rugby, F1 and tennis.

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