The final round of Ligue 1 fixtures for 2013 take place this weekend, with a three-horse race at the top of the table set to take an important twist.
After 18 games in the French top flight, Paris Saint-Germain sit at the table’s summit on 43 points, with fellow big spenders Monaco two points adrift. Lille are the third contender for the title, and are within striking range on 39 points.
Monaco are the first up to complete the first half of their season, as Claudio Ranieri’s men face Valenciennes on Friday night at home. Three points will take the Stade Louis II outfit to the top of the table temporarily, with the hosts certainly favourites to best their relegation-threatened opponents.
Ranieri’s men are arguably the form side in the division, and have won their last five games in Ligue 1 without conceding a goal. This is made all the more remarkable given that speculation over star striker Radamel Falcao’s future continues in the European press. The Colombia international has not featured in his side’s last four fixtures, and it remains to be seen whether he will play against Valenciennes.
Monaco will eye an opportunity to go into the halfway mark of the season at the top of the table, as their rivals do battle against one another on Sunday night.
PSG hosts Lille at the Parc des Princes in what will be a real acid test of the respective sides’ title hopes. A home win will see Laurent Blanc’s men retain their place at the summit, where they have been for the bulk of the campaign. An away win will shoot Lille right back into contention, and ensure the three-way battle is more eagerly contested then ever.
The game in the French capital will pit an irresistible force against an immoveable object, with the team with the best goalscoring record in the division taking on the side with the most miserly rearguard.
PSG are spearheaded by their star strike force of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Edinson Cavani, with the pair netting an astounding 26 league goals this season – six more than Lille’s entire squad have managed. Blanc’s outfit have scored 12 more goals than their closest rival, and especially at home have been virtually impossible to contain.
Despite Lille only scoring 20 goals in 18 games, René Girard’s charges have seen the ball in the back of their net only six times this season. Of their 12 wins this term, seven have been by the slenderest of margins, 1-0; the visitors have only conceded a goal in four of their 18 Ligue 1 fixtures.
Lille’s centre-half partnership of Simon Kjær and Marko Baša have been the heart of the side, and their battle with PSG’s forward line will play a significant role in determining the eventual winner of the clash. Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has also been in captivating form, but can be expected to be busy here.
The sheer amount of money spent on new players by PSG and Monaco has propelled the sides to the top of the table, but it is refreshing to see Lille giving the wealthy pair a run for their money.
Over the summer, Lille spent a mere €4 million in the transfer market; a paltry sum when considered against PSG’s €110m outlay and Monaco’s splurging of a whopping €165m.