Nice claim a final top-3 position as Ligue 1 race heats up

With the completion of week 33 in Ligue 1, Nice sealed their place in the top three alongside fellow title contenders Monaco and PSG. Though each can now celebrate their hard-won tickets to next year’s Champions League, the tangled triumvirate have just five more weeks to sort themselves out to see who will win the Ligue 1 crown. With Monaco’s Champions League chase, bizarre bomb plots, and surprisingly impressive streaks, the Ligue 1 stage is now set for some high class drama.

Amazingly, Nice have not been in the Champions League, nor its previous iterations, since their 1959/60 season. But, after their 3-1 victory over Nancy, the club are now guaranteed their first Champions League spot in 58 years. Nice’s very latent resurgence to prominence has been one of the best soccer stories in the world this year. And although they have been dropping points to Monaco and PSG, it has not been too many. Perhaps surprisingly, Nice are leading the league in lowest number of losses, with just two. Currently, the Eaglets sit four points below Monaco and PSG, though Monaco retain a game in hand.

As if inspired by Monaco’s challenge to their incumbency, PSG have impressively kept pace ever since Monaco surpassed Nice in week 20 for 1st place. The Parisians were three points back then and essentially remain three points back now, due to Monaco’s aforementioned game in hand. But after crashing out of the Champions League in spectacular fashion, PSG now has its own advantage over Monaco, being able to spend more of their physical and mental faculties on their domestic pursuit.

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Yet for Monaco’s part, the seemingly impervious league leaders remain content to juggle their high stake Champions League clashes with their Ligue 1 matches. In the past two weeks’ quarterfinal matches, Monaco easily handled their similarly young and flashy counterpart of Dortmund. Granted, the Bundesliga outfit may have lacked their best focus after multiple explosions rocked their bus ahead of their first leg, costing them defender Marc Bartra due to a broken wrist, no doubt shaking their nerves. However, soccer marches on and Monaco will now face Juventus in the semi-final of this competition.

The bad news for Monaco’s domestic title chance is that they still have fourth place Lyon to play this Sunday. The good news is that it should be smooth sailing afterwards. Monaco are the captain of their course; their destiny in their hands. Plus, one of PSG and Nice will bring the other (or both themselves) down come their league tie in week 35. But of course, it would be foolish to automatically count out each team’s opponents fighting for survival from relegation or just the right to play the role of spoiler.

Though all three teams can toast themselves with the finest of champagnes for this season’s accomplishments, each must hold off on salivating future European adventures just yet, lest their eyes slip from the domestic Championship (or even the current Champions League for the Monegasques). While the sheen of the Champions League shines brightest for Nice, the Ligue 1 title glimmers further away. Monaco and PSG have flexed their muscles well so far, but anything is possible in five weeks. As all three jockey and jostle for first place at the end of a long season, it seems this drama will surely provide a memorable ending.

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