Unfortunately I can’t keep up with the Le Beau Jeu podcasts but who knows what will happen in the New Year. My love for Ligue 1 has not gone though so without further a due, here I go with my Ligue 1 previews and predictions.

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Due to a very busy schedule gibfootballshow has not been able to provide Preview and Review podcasts. “Le Beau Jeu” has been on hold, hopefully it will be back shortly (Monday) to tide you French football lovers over till then, here’s a bit of a recap of all the goings on.

Brest remain top of the pile dispite their 3-1 defeat to Lille, the win moves the northerners to fifth, touching distance from the summit, to boost morale even more forward trio of Sow, Gervinho and Harzard got the goals. Romain Poyet scored Brest’s only goal his third in as many weeks.

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The big game of the weekend was the Sunday evening fixture between Bordeaux and Marseille but 9 games would be played before the last two Ligue 1 Champions would do battle. Lorient hosted Lyon expected to be new Lyon signing Yohan Gourcuff taking on his Dad Christian’s side, Gourcuff started on the bench, Claude Puel surprised many with his team selection, Cesar Delgado, Jimmy Briand and Bafetimbi Gomis starting upfront with Kallstrom, Makoun and Gonalons in midfield, Jeremy Toulalan continued in the centre of Lyon’s defence.

It only took 8 minutes for star striker Kevin Gameiro to cause Toulalan problems, giving his man a head start he tried to recover in doing so he handled the ball in the box, the referee pointed to the spot, Gameiro stepped up and left Lloris with no chance the Brittany club taking the 1-0 lead, Gameiro should have made it two, giving Toulalan a torrid time his movement was causing problems, linking with Amalfitano he cut inside but could only fire his shot straight at Lloris.

The away fans got what they had come for, Cesar Delgado pulled out with an injury and Gourcuff was the player brought on, a few home fans including his mum cheered his appearance, the 22 million euro man will take time to fit in with his new teammates, on a few occasions a lack of understanding and communication saw players getting in each others way.

Lyon’s best chance came in the 2nd half, Makoun floating a pass over the Lorient defence Briand latched onto it, however Lorient keeper Cappone was out quickly and managed to smother Briand’s attempt, soon after it was 2-0, a neat Lorient move found Amalfitano on the right, Lloris could only parry his shot, falling at Kitambala’s feet the debutant had the easy task of finding the empty net.

Another bad result for Claude Puel and Lyon, this must be time to ditch the idea of Toulalan at centre back, they could do with adding a defender to their squad before the transfer window closes on Tuesday, Lorient will be hoping the window closes with Kevin Gameiro still in their squad, very talented player good finisher, smart movement, very skilful with Bordeaux recently coming into money who would bet against them making a move.

Toulouse continued their great form beating Nancy 2-0 at the Marcel-Picot stadium, Capoue scored the first after some lovely skill and putting the ball between Loites legs his low finish found the corner of the net, the score remained the same until the 93rd minute when Franck Tabanou went on a fantastic solo run, beat 3 men and finished with aplomb chipping over Bracigliano. Toulouse sit top of the table on a maximum 12 points.

St-Etienne made it two home wins out of two with a 3-1 victory over Lens, it was all about Dimitri Payet the young winger scoring a hat-trick and finally looking like he will fulfil his potential, the first saw him cut inside to his left foot and curl the ball beautifully past Vedran Runje a trend that was to continue, 10 minutes from time Payet took the ball from the left flank all the way to the edge of the box beating two man before shooting low to Runje’s left the Croatian with no chance. The final goal of the hat-trick was similar cross ball to the left; Payet brought it down before cutting inside again and firing the low shot past the helpless keeper. Jemaa added a late consolation goal for Lens, Payet had already done the damage, many Ligue 1 fans are wondering whether now is the time the exciting winger will come of age and light up the League week after week, only time will tell.

Saturday saw two 1-0 away wins, Montpellier stealing all 3 points from Valenciennes, Giroud with the only goal heading home after Kabaze’s acrobatic overhead kick found him unmarked in the 6 yard box, Rennes continued their great start with a 1-0 victory over new boys Arles-Avignon, Victor Montano’s goal worthy of winning any game, the 25 yard strike beating Plante, Arles hit the woodwork twice trying to level the game, Kermorgant’s late free-kick was curling but could only find the post not the back of the net.

The last game on Saturday saw fast starters Caen take on newcomers Brest, and it was the new boys that picked up the points, after Caen’s Sambou Yatabare was shown a straight red from a rash challenge on Ferradj, his studs were showing the referee had no choice but to show the red card, Brest took full advantage of the extra man, Micola great cross from the right was finished clinically by the very talented Nolan Roux, 15 goals for Brest in Ligue 2 last year he has made a fast start to his Ligue 1 career, 2 goals in 3 games, Brest weren’t finished there Lesoimier was brought down just outside the box, however the referee pointed to the spot, Licata took the spot kick and finished the game off, a great away win for Brest their first win in Ligue 1.

4 games on Sunday and there was a surprise win for Sochaux at home to PSG, Sochaux highly tipped to struggle this season moved into 4th place with the victory goals from Maiga and Ideye Brown gave the home side a 2-0 lead and PSG’s woes were comfounded just before the half time whistle a Sochaux corner was met in the air by Damien Perquis. Gregory Coupet caught in noones land, the ex-French International could take the blame for all 3 goals, not the player he used to be. PSG’s Guilleme Hoarau took a ball on his chest and a powerful finish past Teddy Richert gave PSG a small chance, it was to be Sochaux’s day though, although manager Franck Gillet was sent to the stands early on he will have been delighted with his side’s performance.

The other two early games saw Monaco beat Auxerre 2-0 and Nice take a point at Lille with a 1-1 draw, Niculae and Aubameyang with Monaco’s goals, a Emerse Fae penalty and Eden Hazard finishing after Gervinho’s tricky run the only moments of note at the Stade Metropole.

The big game of the day and the weekend saw Didier Deschamp’s Marseille travel north to take on Jean Tigana’s much changed Bordeaux side, Marseille started Loic Remy after he passed a second set of heart tests this week, other new signing Andre-Pierre Gignac started on the bench, Bordeaux has some debutants of their own Ben Khalfallah signed from Valenciennes joined Anthony Modeste in Bordeaux’s line-up.

Marseille took the early lead, Brandao’s cross was deflected and Lucho was left unmarked in the box, he wasn’t going to miss from such close range, the away side looked comfortable in the lead, That was until the 33rd minute Eduardo Cisse made a challenge on Jaroslav Plasil it was late but not dangerous, not in the eyes of referee Tony Chapron, showing Cisse the red card and reducing Marseille to 10 men.

A very tight match at times you couldn’t tell what team was down to 10, Loic Remy came close in the second half to making it 2-0, he looked offside but the replay’s showed otherwise, a powerful shot in which the superb Cedric Carasso got a hand to and pushed it against the post, Carasso had a fantastic game, a highlight reel on his own, keeping Bordeaux in the match, and it would pay off, in stoppage time Plasil had drifted wide right found a yard of space his cross was dangerous and it was new man Anthony Modete who’s near post run and header levelled the game and stole the points from Marseille, the home crowd estatic, showing that there is life after Gourcuff.

Toulouse stay top, Rennes and Montpellier not far behind, Sochaux continue their great start as do St-Etienne in 5th. The bottom of the table is strange reading, Lille, PSG, Bordeaux, Lyon and Auxerre usually found higher up, the table is propped up by new boys Arles-Avignon still looking for their first point, it doesn’t get easier with PSG and Marseille to come, The next gameweek on September 11th see’s the Derby Du Nord as Lens host rivals Lille in what should be another exciting weekend in France.

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Very interesting news came out on Friday; New French manager Laurent Blanc announced that all 23 members of the 2010 World Cup squad would not be picked for next month’s friendly against Norway. On Thursday the 5th of August Blanc will name the players pick for the match on August 11th, but who will he choose.

As an avid follower of French football this is a really interesting time, will he go for experience and steady the ship, or will he look to the future to set an example to the 23 players expelled that there is a future without them and that they are not automatic picks.

This morning I have had a look round the available players and had a go at picking a 18 man squad that I would pick for the match, a list of about 35 players was narrowed down to 24, and then the final cuts were made till I had the 18 men I could see taking the FFF forward.



 

#1 Mikael Landreau Lille Goalkeeper
#12 Nicola Douchez Rennes Goalkeeper
#15 Rod Fanni Rennes Defender
#2 Mathieu Debuchy Lille Defender
#3 Bruno Tremoulinas Bordeaux Defender
#4 Julian Escude Sevilla Defender
#5 Adel Rami Lille Defender
#6 Laurent Koscienly Arsenal Defender
#14 Rio Mavuba Lille Midfield
#16 Samir Nasri Arsenal Midfield
#17 Yohann Cabaye Lille Midfield
#18 Moussa Sissokho Toulouse Midfield
#7 Hatem Ben Arfa Marseille Midfield
#8 Lassana Diarra Real Madrid Midfield
#10 Kevin Gameiro Lorient Forward
#11 Jimmy Briand Lyon Forward
#13 Loic Remy Nice Forward
#9 Karim Benzema Real Madrid Forward

So let’s explain this squad a little;

In goals I have picked Lille’s Mikael Landreau, did extremely well to recover from a serious knee injury at the start of last season, a great shot stopper, bags of experience and I think it helps a back 4 if you have a Goalkeeper who has been there to talk you through the match, Nicola Douchez has impressed for Rennes so we would be the substitute, Landreau deserves his place between the sticks for his performances for Lille last season.

Rennes - Rod Fanni

My back four would be: Rod Fanni, Bruno Tremoulinas, Adel Rami and new Arsenal man Laurent Koscienly, at Left Back Tremoulinas adds instant width and an ability to deliver a fantastic cross that new Arsenal man Marouane Chamakh benefited from last season, Bruno can also defend, but I’ve picked him more for his attacking prowess. To balance the attacking instincts of the left back I’ve gone with Rod Fanni of Rennes at Right Back, he also loves to get forward, maybe doesn’t quite have the quality in his deliver but he’s big and strong and can defend well.

In the middle I have gone with a young pairing of Rami and Koscienly, Laurent who was signed for Arsenal has had a meteoric rise in the last 2 years from Tours to the Emirates, I would not bet against him pulling on the national jersey and excelling at this level too, beside him is a young player that’s impressed me loads in the past few years, Rami has been a rock in Lille’s defence for the last few years, constantly linked with moves to various clubs, mostly Lyon, he is great in the air, fast over the ground, and not afraid to get a boot in.

A strong back four, with youthful exuberance, power and pace, with the wise head of Landreau behind to keep them right.

The midfield will play with 2 sitting players and 3 attacking, my sitting players have been 2 of the best midfielders in France recently the tenacious Rio Mavuba and one of the best young midfielders in Europe Moussa Sissokho, Rio has been superb for Lille ever since his loan move from Villarreal, he’s added a needed composure on the ball, most Lille moves go through him, the brains behind Rudi Garcia’s successful team, Sissokho is a very talented very sought after man, often compared to Mamadou Diarra and Patrick Vieria, Moussa can play anywhere in midfield, I want him to provide the energy in defence as well as attack.

Jimmy Briand shows his pace

My attacking players bring not only a balance to the team but also a touch of mystique and creativity, Hatem Ben Arfa, Lassana Diarra and Jimmy Briand, Hatem and Lass don’t come with the best reputation for their attitudes but no one can deny their ability on the field, Lass provides an attacking option however he can also swap with Sissokho when the big man breaks forward, great distributor of the ball, great feet, would be an excellent spearhead to the attack, to the left of him would be Ben Arfa, undoubted skill, great confidence, maybe not as consistent as the top managers would like, however on his day he is up there with the best, to the right of Lass would be Lyon’s new signing Jimmy Briand “The new Henry” loves to play wide and cut inside, explosive pace, scores goals, a wonderful young talent, a handful for any defence, accustomed to playing wide at Rennes, we would be perfect in this role for Les Bleus.

The front man in my attack is not a well known player outside France and is actually still to decide if he wants to play for Blanc and the French but Kevin Gameiro’s 17 league goals last year was the best strike rate in France, also eligible to play for Portugal but he has come up through the French ranks, made his name at Strasbourg he was bought by Lorient to replace Andre-Pierre Gignac and his 28 goals in 2 seasons has certainly done the job, not the tallest player however he uses his body well and has that sixth sense some strikers have to find space, and he is deadly around the box.

What about Nasri and Benzema I hear you cry, very good questions, Benzema basically purely on form, he’s not made the jump to Madrid very smoothly and I feel the other players are ahead of him on that reason and with Nasri, if we were 5/6 weeks into the new season then maybe I would play him instead Diarra or Ben Arfa however a few preseason goals mean nothing to me.

I will be very interested to see Blanc’s squad on the 5th of August, even more interested to see how many I got right, and how close his team is to mine; I would leave to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to reply.

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