As the 2020/21 Ligue 1 campaign enters its final five games of the season, the supposed ‘farmers league’ has a breathtaking title race on its hands.
Three points separate current leaders Lille’s 70, from fourth-placed Lyon on 67. Paris Saint-Germain are second on 69, with Monaco third with 68.
This is only the eighth time in Ligue 1 history that less than 10 points separate the top four with five games to go, and this season is sure to have a few more twists in the tale before the campaign draws to a close.
Can Lille’s knack for last-gasp goals keep them on track? Will Monaco’s stunning 2021 form continue? Will the typically dominant PSG prevail? Or will Lyon secure their first title in over a decade?
Sportslens takes a look at the title hopefuls’ run-ins, assessing where the opportunities and challenges lie ahead.
The league leaders have been this season’s surprise package and deservedly sit top of the current standings due to their highly entertaining style of play.
No team has picked up more points in the final 10 minutes of games than Lille’s 10 this campaign, and their impressive tally is at least double that of any of their title rivals.
The balance to Christophe Galtier’s side has been crucial as he has put together a title-challenging team, with both defence and attack equally as impressive this season.
Mike Maignan comfortably leads the race for this year’s Golden Glove, with his 18 clean sheets attracting plenty of interests from clubs throughout Europe.
He has been assisted by his ever-reliable back four. Club captain and 37-year-old José Fonte is still a leading figure within the side.
Benjamin André has been a commanding presence in midfield, and his 62 successive tackles are second only to Lorient’s Laurent Abergel’s 68.
It has been a promising debut season for 21-year-old Jonathan David, and he has formed an unlikely partnership with veteran forward Burak Yilmaz, who have 20 Ligue 1 goals between them.
Their effective partnership has been significantly influenced by Jonathan Bamba, with the left winger providing nine assists, seeing him sit joint top of this seasons assist charts.
Lille’s crucial tie against Lyon on Sunday will be the perfect opportunity to bounce back from last week’s disappointing draw to Montpellier.
The following week they welcome top 10 side Nice to the Stade Pierre Mauroy, who will be aiming for a strong finish to the season.
An away trip to northern rivals Lens for the Derby du Nord will follow, which could prove to be a challenging test with the Sang et Or flying since their return to Ligue 1 this season.
Since the 2012/13 season, Paris Saint-Germain have become the front-runners in Ligue 1 due to their strong financial backing and squad brimming with talented stars.
Despite their impressive run in this seasons UEFA Champions League, where they have knocked out Barcelona and Bayern Munich en route to next week’s semi-final showdown with Manchester City, their stuttering league form sees their pursuit of the 2020/21 Ligue 1 crown far from easy with five games to go.
Sundays’ dramatic last gasp victory over Saint-Étienne was a welcome return to winning ways, with Les Parisiens putting an end to three consecutive home defeats at the Parc des Princes.
Golden boy Kylian Mbappé’s two goals took his league tally to 23, with the forward also boasting seven assists this season.
The 22-year-old seems to have the world at his feet, and there is no doubt that he will be the key man in PSG’s title defence.
Les Parisiens’ firepower is clear for all to see, boasting the most goals scored this season with 74, whilst their resolute and disciplined defence has registered 14 clean sheets.
A jam-packed fixture list will be the champions main cause for concern – Lens, Rennes and Metz are top 10 sides they still have to play in Ligue 1 – all of which will have to be played in and around two semi-final Champions League ties and their Coupe de France charge.
Squad rotation is bound to see points dropped, and although PSG will remain favourites their path is far from easy.
Monaco have been Ligue 1’s standout side this season, winning 16 of the 19 games they have played in 2021 and on a current run of four consecutive wins.
They head into their final five games as the team in form, and Niko Kovac and his men will be hoping their free-flowing football will guide them towards their first Ligue 1 crown since 2017.
Burgeoning talents such as midfielders Aurélien Tchouaméni (21) and Youssouf Fofana (22), as well as summer defensive additions Axel Disasi (23) and Caio Henrique (23) have been pushed to the fore.
All have continued to succeed and progress under more mature and experienced players such as Cesc Fàbregas, club captain Wissam Ben Yedder and summer marquee signing Kevin Volland.
Kovac’s established balance to his side has reaped rewards this season, with a league double over PSG a prime example of their impressive displays.
Ben Yedder and Volland have a combined 46 Ligue 1 goal contributions between, with Monaco placed second in the overall scoring charts, four behind PSG’s 74.
Defensively, only Lorient’s Abergel and Lille’s Andre have made more successful tackles than Tchouaméni, whilst the young Frenchman also ranks fifth in ground duels won.
Three of Les Monégasques remaining five league outings are against top 10 sides, with Lyon’s visit to the Stade Louis-II on May 2 set to be a crucial fixture in their bid for glory.
In their final two games of the season, both Rennes and Lens will provide stern tests. However, if Monaco play with the explosiveness they have treated their fans to this season, big celebrations could be underway come May 23.
Lyon’s 2-1 win away to Nantes on Sunday continued their impressive away form this season, with Rudi Garcia’s side unbeaten in their last 15 away games (W9, D6), the longest in the division.
Memphis Depay’s two goals took the Lyon captain to 18 for the season, second only to Mbappé in the Ligue 1 scoring charts.
The Dutchman has been Lyon’s main man this season, with his nine assists seeing his total goal contributions at an impressive 27.
It is no surprise the forward has been heavily linked with a summer move to Barcelona.
Karl Toko Ekambi and Tino Kadewere’s attacking threat has also been crucial in Les Gones’s title surge.
Summer arrival Ekambi has 12 goals and six league assists, whilst also creating the fourth-highest goalscoring opportunities in the division.
With Lyon facing Lille and Monaco back to back in their next two league fixtures, it looks to be make-or-break for Gracia and his men in their pursuit of the Ligue 1 crown.
Les Gones will take encouragement from their form against their title rivals, recording wins already against PSG, Monaco and a draw against current leaders Lille this season.
Positive results against Lille and Monaco, and the prospect of a first Ligue 1 title since 2008 could soon become a reality.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com and Ligue 1.
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