Over the past few weeks, the consolidation of Ligue 1 has begun. Despite an early break from the peloton, Nice now appear out of breath, hanging on to a one-point lead at the head of the pack. On Nice’s tail are youthful Monaco and pedigreed PSG, chugging right along with nary a sign of struggle in this long distance race.
With Nice looking less spectacular in recent games (1-0 win over Saint-Etienne and a 1-1 draw with Bastia), their loss of momentum has provided the opportunity for Monaco and PSG to make headway in the quests for 1st place. Nice will surely be looking forward to Balotelli’s return after he injured his calf before the club’s last Europa League game. In six league games, Balotelli has scored six goals. Nice is averaging a shade under three goals per game when he plays. Without him, they are averaging a shade under 1.5 goals per game, with the extra .5 solely coming from a 4-2 win over the easily overpowered Metz.
Meanwhile, Monaco and PSG have outscored their opponents 9-2 in the past two weeks, with Monaco converting seven of their chances while recording two clean sheets. Not coincidentally, Monaco are leading all of Europe with 43 domestic goals accrued thus far (as of the completion of week 14), for a rate of just under three goals per game. And they are doing it without a star goal scorer. Like a socialist collective, Monaco are spreading out their booty of goals equally. After their 4-0 victory over Marseille in week 14, a whopping five players led the team with a surprisingly low five goals on the season: Guido Carrillo, Fabinho, Falcao, Thomas Lemar, and Valère Germain—a truly diverse cast of characters. Meanwhile, Boschilia sits alone with 4 goals, which have included some delightfully taken free kicks.
But PSG are achieving parallel results in a starkly different manner. As of the end of week 14, striker Edinson Cavani is leading Ligue 1 with 13 goals. The club’s only other player with more than two goals is Lucas Moura, with five. In weeks 13 and 14, Cavani accounted for three of PSG’s four goals. Add in a midweek goal versus Arsenal in their 2-2 Champions League draw, and you have a very in-form goal scoring machine. PSG is quite simply built around Cavani. And as results have shown, that is perfectly fine. Despite a garish goal differential between Monaco and PSG, the Parisians can surpass the Monegasques if the latter gets into even the tiniest of ruts.
Since Nice lost their match against Schalke on Thursday and were thus eliminated, tired legs will be less of an issue for Nice going forward. Of course, Monaco and PSG will be enjoying the winter break of the Champions League, casting an invitingly dramatic shadow over December and January, when the clubs will not have to worry about lineup rotations or injuries resulting from fatigue. The clubs’ eyes will simply be upon one another, each one focused on getting three points closer to domestic glory.
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