Everything is coming to the good for Monaco this season in the league, with just one point needed to secure the title. At the other end of the table, things are just as tight with multiple teams scrambling for the vital point(s) to avoid relegation.
The penultimate round of Ligue 1 saw two big wins for the two top teams. PSG won 5-0 away at Saint-Etienne, and Monaco beat Lille 4-0 at the Stade Louis II. This keeps Monaco’s lead at three points with a game in hand, and a goal difference advantage of seventeen. The title is not yet confirmed but it is so close that Leonardo Jardim’s men can almost touch it – and should get to do so on Wednesday night, if they can take a point at home to Saint-Etienne.
After some tighter results, Monaco, who had a horrendous schedule to deal with culminating in a Champions League semi-final defeat to Juventus, they seemed liberated on Sunday. They put in a performance that will haunt the Lille defence’s collective nightmares for a while.
Young hotshot Killian Mbappe got two assists, the first for Bernardo Silva after a dribbling masterclass up the right that nearly finished Franck Beria, the second a ‘simple’ mid-air lob over Junior Alonso to set up Falcao. But another ASM starlet was also wreaking havoc. Thomas Lemar set up Falcao for the first goal, put in the long cross to Mbappe for the third, and the assist for the fourth, an own goal from the despairing Alonso.
PSG may have pooped the party at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, where Saint-Etienne were having a send-off for coach Christophe Galtier in their last home game, but despite doing everything right – scoring inside two minutes, braces for Edinson Cavani and Lucas, dominating possession, and keeping a clean sheet – they were still outdone by the leaders.
Marquinhos, who replaced Thiago Silva for the second half, was asked after the match where PSG had failed in their attempt to retain the title, and rightly identified their shaky start to the season. In the first ten games they lost to Monaco and Toulouse, and drew with Saint-Etienne and Marseille – by the winter break they had already lost four games, more than in the entirety of each of the last three seasons. In brighter news for fans, he did say that he would “100%” be staying at PSG next season.
Less clear is the situation at the other end, after the bottom four lined up against each other. Dijon beat Nancy 2-0 to pull themselves out of the drop-zone and give themselves a good chance of staying up; Bastia shrugged off playing another ‘home’ game behind closed doors and on the mainland to beat Lorient 2-0 to at least get off the foot of the table. This means that there is still all to play for on the final day. Nancy are guaranteed to finish in the bottom three, but with this year seeing them in 18th place going into a play-off, even they still have a theoretical chance of staying up.
To stand any chance of that, Nancy need to beat Saint-Etienne (who play in several key games at the end of the season) and hope. They are on 32 points, two behind Bastia who play away at Marseille, and a further point behind Lorient who will host Bordeaux. As their opponents are only one point apart in the tussle for fifth place and a guaranteed Europa League spot, neither will be on the beach. However, if either Bastia or Lorient can get the necessary result then the two teams on 36 points need to be wary; Dijon have the much better goal difference and are at home to Toulouse, who have nothing to play for – Caen, less promisingly, are away at PSG.
The midweek fixture may mean that the title is done before the weekend, but there are still some crucial games to come.
Follow Philippa on Twitter at @Philby1976