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Ligue 1 half-time report: Zlatan Ibrahimovic the star of the show so far…

Matthew Riding

After 491 goals, 18 red cards, one 20-month national team ban and two managerial departures, the 2012-2013 Ligue 1 season has reached its halfway point, and enters the customary winter break.

As the players tuck into their turkey and prepare to hit the ground running when they return to action later this month, now is the perfect time to assess the stars, surprises and disappointments of the campaign so far.

Ibrahimovic 768x1024 Ligue 1 half time report: Zlatan Ibrahimovic the star of the show so far...PSG and Zlatan

Where better to start than with table-toppers Paris Saint-Germain. After rumours of unrest in the dressing room and doubts cast over manager Carlo Ancelotti’s future, the two time Ligue 1 champions have managed to pip Lyon and Marseille to number one spot on goal difference and the winter break has probably come at a bad time for the Parisian giants.

Much of their success has been down to Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who sits at the top of the scorers chart with 18 goals. Although in the past the 31-year-old’s stock as one of the world’s best has been doubted, his form this season – as well as this goal against England – has gone a long way to expelling those thoughts. He has been PSG’s linchpin, and Ancelotti will need him to continue his fine form after the festive period if the Qatari-owned club are to win their first Ligue 1 title for 19 years.

Away from the capital, Lyon and Marseille have both enjoyed a renewed resurgence.

Lyon

After leaving his role as the club’s training centre director in 2011, Lyon manager Remi Garde has moulded a crop of exciting youngsters, and has managed to get the best out of striker Bafetimbi Gomis. The French forward has always been seen to have had the potential to take Ligue 1 by storm, but in the past, has never quite fulfilled his undoubted promise. However, this season, the 27-year-old – who has scored 11 times in the league – has excelled in a team built around his robust and powerful style. With Premier League heads being turned, the pressure will be on chairman Jean-Michel Aulas to keep hold of the club’s prized asset in this month’s transfer window. If Lyon are to maintain their title challenge, they need to keep hold of their best players, and Gomis is certainly one of those.

Marseille

What a campaign Marseille have had so far. It was only last season the nine time Ligue 1 winners were struggling to break into the top 10. This season – after winning their first six games – they find themselves joint top of the league, level on points with PSG and Lyon. The man who can claim much of the praise for Marseille’s success this season is manager Elie Baup. He has galvanised the team and made them hard to beat. One player who has felt the benefit of Baup’s management, is striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, who after being told to ‘lose three or four kilos’ by the club’s medical team last season, has rediscovered the form he showed in the 2008-2009 season, when he scored 24 goals for Toulouse to finish as the league’s top scorer.

Many thought Marseille’s title challenge may have tailed off by now, but their team spirit and determination as a side is unquestioned, and if they continue to play with the relentless resolve they have displayed so far, you would be a fool to write them off.

Bottom Three

At the other end of the table, the relegation places are occupied by AS Nancy Lorraine, Troyes and Sochaux. Having once scaled the heights of the then named Uefa Cup, Nancy have struggled this season, and find themselves rooted to the foot of the table. Having only scored 15 goals in 19 games, it is obvious what their problem is, and things don’t get any better at the back – only Troyes and Bastia have conceded more goals.

Troyes and Sochaux will also be looking for a better second half to the season, and will perhaps look to this month’s transfer window as an opportunity to strengthen their squads.

Ones to Watch in 2013

Lucas Moura – After signing in the summer of 2012, the 20-year-old Brazilian will begin his PSG playing career after the winter break. PSG managed to beat a whole host of suitors including Manchester United when they signed the former Sao Paulo man for a reported €45m. The playmaker will be looking to take Ligue 1 by storm and help guide his side to the league title.

Wissam Ben Yedder – The talented Tunisian-born striker has been impressive in the first half of the season, scoring nine times and claiming two assists. If the 22-year-old maintains his impressive form after the winter break, he could be the next French hot property – after the likes of Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery – to leave Ligue 1 for one of Europe’s top clubs.

Romain Alessandri – Having arrived from Ligue 2 side Clermont in the summer, the success that the 23-year-old Frenchman has had in Ligue 1 for Rennes, has surprised many. With seven goals in 16 games and five assists, the Marseille-born midfielder will be looking to continue his fine form for the rest of the season.

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  • SimonG34

    Tell-tale signs of dissent in the PSG ranks, though, with the impending departure of last season’s best player, Nene. And the cow eyes the Qatari owners are making at Mourinho and Christiano Ronaldo probably won’t help. Can you imagine a dressing room big enough to accommodate the egos of those two as well as “I am Zlatan”?


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