Ligue 1: Things are hotting up

With five games to go in Ligue 1, things are hotting up on several fronts. Monaco and PSG stay in the top two spots, both with a game in hand, and Nice’s recent run of wins — without several of their key players — has secured them at least third spot, with a gaping points-chasm down to Lyon in fourth. The relegation battle, however, is getting more interesting than it had previously appeared. Lorient have dragged themselves up to 18th thanks to three wins on the spin, before losing at Montpellier at the weekend, with only goal difference separating them and Nancy in 17th.

The first trophy of the season has been handed out, as PSG beat Monaco 4-1 in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue. It was an unexpectedly comprehensive win too. Monaco were missing Fabinho (suspended) and Radamel Falcao (injured), and were clearly cross about the controversial Julian Draxler opener, but should still have had enough to keep things tighter – particularly at the back – than they were.

The Coupe de France semi-finals take place next midweek, and will see a rerun of the league cup final, and this time PSG will have home advantage. Monaco beat Lille 2-1 in the quarter-final with a brace from Valére Germain, and helped by their opponents having young defender Carlens Arcus sent off in the first half. Anwar El-Ghazi scored a lovely injury-time freekick to make the scoreline look closer than it really was, as Monaco rarely looked troubled.

Meanwhile, PSG were playing one of the remaining amateur sides, third-tier Avranches – and here, the 4-0 scoreline maybe looks wider than it was. Avranches played a sturdy game in the first half, going into the break only 1-0 down, but were undone by two goals in three minutes early in the second half, and understandably never really recovered. The other semi-final will see Angers host Guingamp, winners in 2009 and 2014. Angers’ previous best result was to make the final in 1957 – which they lost 6-3 to Toulouse. Here’s hoping for goals in that then.

PSG play their league game in hand this week, and could go level on points with Monaco if they win at Metz, but the Monegasque goal machine means that goal difference will keep them top, while room is found in their crowded calendar to face Saint-Etienne.

Monaco are still fighting on the European front too. Much to the frustration of opponents Borussia Dortmund, their Champions League quarter-final first leg was postponed after the BVB bus was attacked. A brace from Monaco’s man of the moment Kylian Mbappe helped them to a 3-2 away victory. While Dortmund fans welcomed their French counterparts into their homes showing the best of football, elsewhere in European competition there were more unfortunate scenes, as Lyon v Besiktas kicked off 45 minutes late after OL’s fans took to the pitch to avoid projectiles launched by the visitors. OL won 2-1, coming from a goal down with late goals from Corentin Tolisso and Jeremy Morel, but were further shaken as their league visit to Bastia on Sunday was abandoned at half-time after trouble pre-match was followed by a pitch invasion.

Bastia are now bottom of the table, with a tough run-in including three games against the top six, and their behaviour seems to be worsening as a result. Dijon – who seem more unlucky than actively bad, taking the lead against Monaco before two Falcao freekicks undid them – are 19th, with one of the more manageable run-in. Game 37 could be crucial here as the current bottom four all play each other. With Lorient facing theoretically manageable opposition before then (Metz, Nantes, Angers) could they be the team to pull off the Great Escape this season?

Follow Philippa on Twitter at @Philby1976

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