Paris Saint Germain have won the French league in seven of the last eight seasons, with the only other side to have won the league at that time being Monaco in 2017. For the past decade, PSG have been the peerless team. of Ligue 1, but this season an exciting title race is brewing, with three teams involved.
All Ligue 1 teams have now played 29 games, with the current leader being Lille, which leads the league with 63 points. Three points behind them are PSG second and Lyon third. There should be a mention for fourth Monaco who are seven points behind Lille, but with nine games to go, a title challenge seems out of the question for Niko Kovač’s side.
So, with three points separating the top three, let’s take a look at the top three contenders for the Ligue 1 title, how their season has gone so far, and what are the key aspects to watch out for in the rest of the season.
Lille: the season so far
Lille have had an impressive season, which saw them climb to the top of the league, losing just twice. They have relied on a solid defense, which has allowed them to concede the fewest goals in the league, with just 17 goals in their net this season. This helped Lille win 18 of their 29 games.
In attack, Lille were not afraid to shoot from a distance with 44% of their shots coming from outside, while PSG only have 30% of their shots from outside the box and Lyon have 33% of his shots from outside the box. Lille are also averaging 4.8 shots on target per game, only PSG and Lyon averaging more, showing that they are effective in front of goal and regularly disturb the goalkeeper.
Key attacking players have been Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David, who are Lille’s top scorers in the league with nine goals apiece. Jonathan Bamba has been their main creative player, with eight assists this season.
Defensively, Lille have been impressive with 16 clean sheets so far this season. This is due to a solid defense and an efficient goalkeeper. Lille’s goal faced only 78 shots on target in Ligue 1, better than everyone in the league except Monaco who also allowed only 78 shots on their goal. This statistic and that Mike Maignan, the Lille goalkeeper only had to make 62 saves, demonstrate their defensive efficiency in protecting their goal. Moreover, Maignan’s save percentage in the league is still impressive at 79.5%, which is the same as that of PSG and better than everyone else in the league. A fit defense and a quality goalkeeper played a key role in establishing Lille at the top of Ligue 1.
Lille: the run-in
Lille are looking to win the championship for the first time since 2011, and to do better than in 2019, when they were finalists, although they finished 16 points behind PSG on this occasion.
Key games to focus on include a trip to the Parc des Princes to face PSG on April 3, and they will want a better result than they got in the 3-0 loss to PSG in the Cup game. de France which took place on Wednesday. The 24e April they travel to face Lyon and will face Lens, their rivals in the North Derby on the 8the of May.
A slight concern for Lille is that, according to Fbref, they are currently surpassing their xG, which measures the quality of odds and the likelihood of those odds being marked. For Lille, their xG is 40.1 and they have scored 49 which means they convert their chances to an impressive level, but it can be difficult to keep up for the rest of the season. They slightly outperform their xGA, which is 19.6, where they only conceded 17.
Key to the rest of Lille’s season will be whether they can maintain their defensive form, if they can continue to outperform their xG and what happens in these key games against PSG and Lyon.
PSG: Season so far
Mauricio Pochettino is on the hunt for his first league title as a manager this season, and although the Champions League is a priority, they won’t want to lose their title as the dominant force in France.
PSG are the top scorer in Ligue 1 this season, with 63 goals. They have also been good defensively in the league conceding 19, with only Lille conceding less. They’ve won more games than anyone, but lost seven, which is more than their competition in the title race.
Unsurprisingly, PSG control most of the possession in their matches, with the league’s highest average possession at 60.4%. With ball control, rather than shooting from a distance, PSG like to bring the ball into the box and this is proven by taking 61% of their shots inside the opponent’s 18-yard box. Perhaps a bit surprising for a team that controls the ball so much is that they don’t have the most shots per game in the league, which is owned by Lyon with 16.6 shots per game. However, PSG remain on average the second highest number of shots with 14.7 per game and 5.5 shots on target per game. With players like Neymar Jr, Mbappé and Di María, it’s not shocking that they have more dribbles per game than any other team in the league.
Kylian Mbappé is the league’s top scorer with 18 goals and has scored 29% of PSG’s league goals this season. Loan forward Moise Kean has also been in impressive form in front of goal, scoring 11 goals for PSG in the league this season. Kean has been a revelation since arriving on loan from Everton and has surpassed an 8.7 xG according to Fbref.
Di María has the most assists for PSG and has been impressive in creating goals. He has eight assists to his name, 4 of which result in goals from Mbappé. Mbappé, along with his scoring prowess, contributed with assists and he has six assists to his name.
PSG have the cleanest sheets in the league with 17 clean sheets so far this season. PSG goalkeepers were impressive with a save percentage of 79.5%, which contributed to the impressive defensive form.
PSG: the break-in
PSG are on the hunt for their fourth consecutive league title this season and their next two league games could define the title race as on Sunday they will travel to Lyon and then the 3.rd from April, they will welcome Lille. If six points are obtained at the end of these two matches, it will go a long way in helping PSG to win the league.
PSG have marked what xG suggests they should have. Their xG according to Fbref is 62.2 and they scored 63. Their xGA is 30.8 which is concerning as it suggests that they should have conceded more than they currently have and that they are conceding. chances that could lead to the scoring of the opposition.
Neymar is expected to return soon and that will obviously be beneficial for PSG.
For PSG, it will be a balancing act to keep the team cool during the Champions League quarter-finals and the Coupe de France quarter-finals alongside their league matches. This could prove to be crucial with Lille having only the league to focus on and Lyon being involved in the league and the cup, but no European football.
Balancing the dream of winning the Champions League with the drive to retain their Ligue 1 title will be a big challenge for PSG for the rest of the season.
Lyon: the season so far
The team currently in third place is Lyon, which has the same number of points as PSG and three points behind Lille in first position.
Lyon have lost just three league games this season. They have scored 57 exemplary goals, the second most scored by a league team this season. They seem more focused on attack than Lille, which might explain why they have conceded 26 goals, most of the top three clubs.
The offensive approach is demonstrated with Lyon averaging 16.6 shots per game, which has helped them achieve 6.1 shots on target per game, the league’s highest. Although they appreciate the possession of the ball very much, they are also exceptional on the counterattack, with 6 goals this season on the clock, the same number as PSG.
Dutchman Memphis Depay is a key player for Lyon with 14 league goals and 9 assists, which puts him at the top of the league tree when it comes to assists. Karl Toko Ekambi has also been in exquisite form with 12 league goals to his name. Tino Kadewere is also in double digits with 10 league goals to his name, showing the range of attacking talent Lyon have.
Anthony Lopes in the Lyon goal was in good shape with a save percentage of 75.3% which helped them clean 10 sheets. Although conceding more goals than their rivals may be a concern, the idea is that Lyon are good in the attacking zones, so will be confident they can beat the opponent.
Lyon: the run-in
Lyon won seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles from 2001 to 2008 but haven’t won a league title since.
You have to keep an eye out for the fact that although Lyon have scored 57 goals this season, unlike Lille and PSG, they have scored less than what their xG suggests they should have scored. Fbref suggests their xG is 65.1, which suggests Lyon should score more goals. Therefore, if Lyon can start converting more chances, it could help them overtake their league rivals.
As mentioned previously, Lyon will face PSG this Sunday. They will play Lille on the 24the April and face a trip to Monaco, fourth, on 1st of May.
Although they are likely to run away from goals, Lyon are a wonderful attacking team and if they can convert more chances they will pose a threat to both PSG and Lille. These matches against the top two will be crucial and they will look to key players like Depay and Ekambi to play in these matches.
Conclusions of the title race
It’s refreshing to see a title race in France after so many years of domination by PSG. In these pressure games, the winning mentality and experience of PSG can help them, although an element of fatigue may come into play for the reigning champions as they attempt to manage Championship and Cup competitions. Matches involving the top teams will determine the title, although the top three clubs must avoid slippage in other matches as well.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the rest of the Ligue 1 season unfolds and who gets their hands on the Ligue 1 trophy.