Paris Saint Germain have won the French league in seven out of the last eight seasons, with the only other team to win the league in that time being Monaco in 2017. In the last decade, PSG have been the standout team in Ligue 1, but this season there is an exciting title race brewing, with three teams involved.
All teams in Ligue 1 have now played 29 games, with the current leaders being Lille, who sit top of the league on 63 points. Three points behind them are PSG in second and Lyon in third place. There should be a mention for Monaco in fourth who are seven points behind Lille, but with nine games left a title challenge seems out of the question for Niko Kovač’s side.
So, with three points separating the top three, let’s look at the three main contenders for the Ligue 1 title, how their season has panned out so far and what are the key aspects to look out for in the rest of the season.
Lille: Season So Far
Lille have had an impressive season, which has seen them rise to the top of the league, losing only twice. They have relied on a solid defence, which has seen them concede the fewest goals in the league, with only 17 goals entering their net this season. This has helped Lille to win 18 of their 29 games.
In attack, Lille have not been afraid to shoot from distance with 44% of their shots coming from outside the box, whereas PSG only have 30% of their shots from outside the box and Lyon have 33% of their shots from outside the box. Lille also average 4.8 shots on target per game, with only PSG and Lyon averaging more, which shows they are efficient in front of goal and regularly trouble the goalkeeper.
Key offensive players have been Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David who are joint top scorers for Lille in the league with nine goals each. 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 has been due to a solid defence and effective goalkeeping. Lille’s goal has only faced 78 shots on target in Ligue 1, better than everyone else in the league except for Monaco who have also only allowed 78 shots on their goal. This statistic and that Mike Maignan, Lille’s goalkeeper has only had to make 62 saves demonstrates their defensive effectiveness in protecting their goal. Further to this, Maignan’s save percentage in the league is still an impressive 79.5%, which is the same as PSG’s and better than everyone else in the league. An in-form defence and a quality goalkeeper have played a key role in Lille establishing themselves at the top of Ligue 1.
Lille: The Run-In
Lille are looking to win the league for the first time since 2011, and to go one better than in 2019 when they were runners-up, though they finished 16 points behind PSG on that occasion.
The key fixtures to focus on include a trip to Parc des Princes to face PSG on the 3rd of April, and they will want a better result than they achieved in the 3-0 defeat to PSG in the Coupe De France tie that took place on Wednesday. On the 24th of April they travel to face Lyon and they will face Lens, their rivals in the Derby du Nord on the 8th of May.
A slight concern for Lille is that according to Fbref, they are outperforming their xG currently, which measures the quality of chances and the likelihood of whether those chances are scored. For Lille, their xG is 40.1, and they have scored 49, which means they are converting their chances at an impressive level, but this may be hard to keep up in the remainder of the season. They are slightly outperforming their xGA, which is 19.6, where they have only conceded 17.
The key to the remainder of Lille’s season will be whether they can keep up their defensive form, if they can keep outperforming their xG and what happens in those key games against PSG and Lyon.
PSG: Season So Far
Mauricio Pochettino is looking for his first league title as a manager this season, and though the Champions League is a priority they will not want to lose their title as the dominant force in France.
PSG are the highest scorers in Ligue 1 this season, with 63 goals. They also have been good defensively in the league conceding 19, with only Lille conceding fewer. They have won more games than anyone else, but have lost seven, which is more than their title race competitors.
Unsurprisingly, PSG control most of the possession in their games, with the highest average possession in the league of 60.4%. With control of the ball, rather than shoot from distance, PSG like to work the ball into the box and this is proven by them taking 61% of their shots inside the opposing 18 yard box. Maybe slightly surprising for a team that controls so much of the ball is that they do not have the most shots per game in the league, that belongs to Lyon with 16.6 shots per game. However, PSG still average the second highest number of shots with 14.7 per game and 5.5 shots on target per game. With players such as Neymar Jr, Mbappé, and Di María, it is not shocking to see 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. On-loan striker Moise Kean has been in impressive form as well in front of goal, with 11 goals for PSG in the league this season. Kean has been a revelation since joining on-loan from Everton and has outperformed an xG of 8.7 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, with 4 of those assists resulting in Mbappé goals. Mbappé as well as his goalscoring prowess, has been contributing with assists as well as he has six assists to his name.
PSG have the most clean sheets in the league with 17 clean sheets so far this season. PSG goalkeepers have been impressive with a save percentage of 79.5%, which has helped contribute to the impressive defensive form.
PSG: The Run-In
PSG are looking 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 on the 3rd of April they will host Lille. If six points are achieved from those two games, then it will go a long way to helping PSG win the league.
PSG have scored what xG suggests they should have. Their xG according to Fbref is 62.2 and they have scored 63. Their xGA is 30.8, which is a concern as it suggests they should have conceded more than they currently have and that they are conceding chances that could lead to the opposition scoring.
Neymar is expected to return soon and that will obviously be beneficial to PSG.
For PSG, it will be a balancing act to keep the squad fresh when they are in the Champions League quarterfinals and the Coupe de France quarterfinals alongside their league fixtures. This could prove pivotal with Lille only having the league to focus on and Lyon being involved in the league and cup, but no European football.
Balancing the dream of winning the Champions League and the desire to retain their Ligue 1 title will be an important challenge for PSG in the remainder of this season.
Lyon: Season So Far
The team currently in third place are Lyon, who have the same number of points as PSG and are three points behind Lille in first position.
Lyon have only lost three games in the league this season. They have scored an exemplary 57 goals, the second highest amount scored by a team in the league this season. They do seem to be more attack minded than Lille, which might explain why they have conceded 26 goals, the most of the top three clubs.
The attacking approach is demonstrated with Lyon averaging 16.6 shots per game, which has helped them to achieve 6.1 shots on target per game, the highest in the league. Though, they do enjoy a lot of possession of the ball, they are also exceptional on the counterattack, with 6 goals this season coming on the counter, 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 tree in the league regarding assists. Karl Toko Ekambi has also been in exquisite form with 12 goals to his name in the league. Tino Kadewere is also in double figures with 10 league goals to his name, which shows the array of attacking talent available to Lyon.
Anthony Lopes in Lyon’s goal has been in good form with a save percentage of 75.3%, which has helped them to 10 clean sheets. Though conceding more goals than their rivals may be a concern, the idea is that Lyon are good in attacking areas, so will be confident they can outscore the opposition.
Lyon: The Run-In
Lyon won seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles from 2001 to 2008 but have not won a league title since.
Something to keep an eye on is that though Lyon have scored 57 goals this season, they unlike Lille and PSG have scored less than what their xG suggests they should have scored. Fbref suggests that their xG is 65.1, which suggests Lyon should be scoring more goals. Therefore, if Lyon can start converting more chances, that could assist them in overtaking their rivals in the league.
As alluded to before, Lyon will face PSG this Sunday. They will play Lille on the 24th of April and face a trip to fourth placed Monaco on the 1st of May.
Though they are susceptible to leaking goals, Lyon are a wonderful attacking team and if they can convert more chances, they will pose a threat to PSG and Lille. Those games against the top two will be pivotal and they will be looking to key players such as Depay and Ekambi to perform in those games.
Title Race Conclusions
It is refreshing to see a title race in France after so many years of PSG dominance. In those pressure games, the winning mentality and experience of PSG may help them, though an element of fatigue may come into play for the reigning champions as they try to manage league and cup competitions. The games involving the top sides will go along way to deciding the title though the top three clubs must avoid slip ups in other fixtures as well.
It will be certainly interesting to see how the remainder of the Ligue 1 season plays out and who will get their hands on the Ligue 1 trophy.