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Ligue 1 is Europe’s most exciting competition

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Here’s Our 3 Wishes for 2017

Marseille’s renaissance continues

Bilesa’s return flamed out, but Marseille rebounded with Rudy Garcia. Garcia is no “El Loco” in style or manner, but he’s won Ligue 1 against all odds, with Lille. Garcia took over a side that was 12th in the table. Since then Marseille has lost only two, climbing to 6th. Gomis has ten goals in nine. And Saki, Rolando, Hubocan and Fanni have developed into a formidable back four.

Missing out on John Obi Mikel to China is a blow but, if Frank McCourt ponies up the Euros for a Dimitri Payet return some of the skepticism around his investment in the club may dim.

Could Marseille finish top four? Not this year. But a Europa league place would restore dignity to a wayward season and awaken hope in the Velodrome faithful.

Jean Michael Seri leads Nice to Glory

Dante’s gotten love. Balotelli the headlines. But it’s Seri, the Ivorian Ant-Man who’s Nice’s indispensable player. Leading Ligue 1 in assists the man’s range of passing and mobility are the keys that ignite Nice’s engine. If he stays healthy and Nice win it, he should be Ligue 1’s player of the season-and off to a bigger club. How Nice copes with Seri’s absence during the African Cup of Nations will determine if the Ligue 1 championship finds a home on the French coast.

Monaco stays offensive

Monaco. Home of world class Grand Prix, no income tax and attacking football. Attacking football? Yes. Attacking football. Sure, in the past Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco have been accused of parking buses and inducing yawns. However, this year’s edition has 49 goals scored. Top for all of Europe’s major leagues.

Falcao’s 11 goals have been a welcome resurgence and Guido Carrillo’s 7 has already surpassed his total from the previous season. Jardim’s new tactical approach has ensured Ligue 1 is well within reach. Manchester City await in the round of 16 and a semi-final place in the Coupe de la Ligue keeps the treble in play. Will Jardim alter Monaco’s approach to appease the trophy gods? Or will banging Gs’ remain?

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Ligue 1 Quickie: PSG vs Nice

ligue1quickiePSG always makes the headlines, we’ll focus on Nice instead. Three observations:

First half efficiency.

Nice didn’t have much possession in the first half, but when they did, they played it forward with purpose. Two chances. Two goals. Wylan Cyprien’s inside of the foot free kick curler was sublime. And Clea’s team leading 10th goal of the season, splitting Brazilian bookends Silvia and Marquinhos sent Nice’s travelling support bonkers. The lead didn’t last, but two goals at the Parc des Princes could cement Nice’s belief that Ligue 1 is theirs.

A Goalkeeping Folktale.

I love short goalkeepers. They’re creatures of folklore who defy modern norms. Yoan Cardinale is Ligue 1’s short shot stopper supreme. His slick hair and modest height resembles an office intern or the produce lead at your local grocer, not Nice’s number 1 netminder. Yoan’s bobble on Kurzawa’s cross may have cost Nice three points, but his earlier double save on Kurzawa and Cavani may have preserved one. Cardinale isn’t the keeper to lead Nice to the title, but it’s hard to root against him.

Balotelli’s Cameo.

Favre brought Balotelli on in minute 75 searching for a late winner. Football’s main maverick has matured both on and off the pitch under Favre scoring goals and not playing game boy on the bench. But the performance was classic Balotelli. 20 minutes played, a few world class touches, a shot from 35 yards out and a yellow card.