Andy Brassell on European football: PSG face domestic competition

Lille's captain José Fonte
José Fonte has led perhaps the most exciting team in Ligue 1 to the top

Improbably Ligue 1 is turning into Europe's tightest title race while in Italy Milan haven't given up on trying to win Serie A says Andy Brassell...

"Even Lille's exit from the Europa League last week might be said to play in their favour. Like Lyon and Monaco, Lille are not distracted by continental competition, which reigning champs PSG most certainly are."

A genuine title race in Ligue 1

In many ways the weekend just gone might have seemed like a typical one in France's top flight, with Paris Saint-Germain going to Dijon and rattling off a 4-0 win and Kylian Mbappé helping himself to a couple of goals. Fortunately for those who like the thrill of the chase, this is anything but normal service in the Ligue 1 title race and on the cusp of spring, it is looking like PSG will not enjoy their habitual canter to the winning post.

Only PSG and Monaco won - and the latter had to work hard to break down Brest - from the current top four but this only served to condense the scramble, with just four points now separating leaders Lille, PSG, Lyon and Monaco. Many believe Lille are even favourites looking at their attacking options, with Jonathan David and Timothy Weah hitting their straps after slow starts to the season.

Even Lille's exit from the Europa League at the hands of Ajax last week might be said to play in their favour. Like Lyon and Monaco, Lille are not distracted by continental competition, which reigning champs PSG most certainly are.

Marseille, who came back from a goal down to hold Lyon at the weekend, are the visitors to Lille in this week's midweek fixtures and are gently improving with new coach Jorge Sampaoli watching on from quarantine - while Lille have drawn both of their previous two Ligue 1 home games.

With Lyon hosting managerless Rennes and Monaco going to Strasbourg, the pressure is on the challengers. PSG may struggle to beat their direct competitors but are impeccable at putting away the also-rans.

Back Lille and Marseille to draw at 3.65

What if Milan aren't done?

This was the point where Milan's title challenge was meant to crumble - bested and then some in the derby with Inter, reeling from successive Serie A defeats for the first time this season and going into the weekend with Zlatan Ibrahimovic embarrassing himself by ill-advisedly picking a fight with LeBron James. Ok, maybe the last one wouldn't have any effect on the season but it fed into the image of a squad losing its way.


Sunday night's win at Roma, then, was a kick back against that, an indication that perhaps the Rossoneri haven't said all they're going to say in this season's title race. We know all about Roma's difficulties in getting results against the league's high-fliers but there were no hard luck stories here. Stefano Pioli's side came out of the traps quickly and rarely let up. They were excellent all evening and a larger win would not have flattered them.

Moreover, they weren't totally reliant on Ibrahimovic, which seemed like a possibility at earlier points in the season. Ante Rebić, Franck Kessie and Théo Hernandez have all developed into real leaders - which is partly down to the big Swede. Udinese, who Milan face on Wednesday, have been improved of late but Pioli and company need to get busy closing the four-point gap to Inter.

Back under 2.5 goals between Milan and Udinese at 2.0621/20

Trouble brews for the loser of Gladbach-Leverkusen clash

"We have to get a result next week," was Peter Bosz's sum-up after Bayer Leverkusen's home reverse to Freiburg on Sunday, and he wasn't wrong. Die Werkself have won two and lost six of the last 11 Bundesliga games, going from top spot to five points short of a Champions League place in the process.


What Borussia Mönchengladbach would give for a helping of those problems. They have lost four of the last five in all competitions with coach Marco Rose's summer departure for Borussia Dortmund being announced somewhere in the middle. Rose is a strong personality but some Bundesliga results are required for him to reassert his authority. They are unlikely to return to the Champions League, lying nine points short of the top four after shelling a 2-0 lead to lose at Leipzig on Saturday.

The corresponding fixture was a huge one in last season's run-in, and Leverkusen played very well to net a handsome win and the advantage in the race for the final Champions League place - yet slipped up and an injury-affected Gladbach beat them to fourth spot. In terms of trying to put that to bed it's clear that Bosz's team have more to lose, but a defeat will be tough to come back from for either side - and either coach.

Back Borussia Mönchengladbach to beat Leverkusen at 2.68/5

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