There are two rounds of French Ligue 1 action to go before the division has a three-week break over the Christmas and New Year period, with bookmakers still listing pre-season favourite Paris Saint-Germain at short odds for the title.
Paris Saint-Germain is trading at French Ligue 1 odds as short as -1000 with Ladbrokes even though it trails its arch rival, Marseille, by one point with 17 rounds completed and it has played its joker of hosting L’OM in the capital city.
One is not going ignore the fact that Paris Saint-Germain beat Marseille 2-0 at the Parc des Princes but L’OM gave as good as they got – for example, Marcelo Bielsa’s side had eight corner kicks to PSG’s six and the visitors had a slight possession edge of 52 per cent to 48%.
One would not have any problem with the French Ligue 1 odds if Paris Saint-Germain was the favourite but there was a much smaller gap between it and its biggest threat. But bookmakers are out of their minds – or they believe that their customers are crazy – with Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille trading at top odds of -714 and +800 respectively.
Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille have had 14 common French Ligue 1 opponents, not including their head-to-head clash at the Parc des Princes in which PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic played less than half an hour off the bench and Marseille winger Andre Ayew, son of three-time African Footballer of the Year award winner Abedi Pele, did not play. One’s view is that six of those 14 French Ligue 1 collateral form lines favour Paris Saint-Germain, six of them favour Marseille and two of them are dead heats. So Paris Saint-Germain, because of its 2-0 French Ligue 1 home victory over Marseille, holds the tiniest of tiny collateral form line advantages.
Counterbalancing Paris Saint-Germain’s margin lead over Marseille in terms of collateral form lines is that PSG is fighting fires on more fronts than L’OM. Paris Saint-Germain has qualified for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage, a competition in which it reached last term’s quarter-finals where it was a few minutes away from eliminating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Marseille does not have any continental distractions after finishing last season’s French Ligue 1 in sixth place and falling short in domestic cup tournaments.
On the other hand, the CAF Africa Cup of Nations will not inconvenience Paris Saint-Germain as much as it will scupper Marseille. Only one member of Paris Saint-Germain’s squad is likely to participate in the tournament – Serge Aurier of Cote d’Ivoire – whereas Marseille’s roster features four men – Ayew, Brice Dja Djedje, Nicolas N’Koulou and Brice Samba of Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Congo respectively – who could be away on national team duty for four weeks. The CAF African Cup of Nations runs during French Ligue 1 time.
One’s conclusion is that Paris Saint-Germain is the most likely French Ligue 1 champion but that Marseille is over the odds in what is shaping as a race that will go down to the wire. Not only Paris Saint-Germain have to travel to Marseille between now and the end of the French Ligue 1 competition but also third-placed Lyon, fourth-placed Saint-Etienne, fifth-placed Bordeaux, seventh-placed Monaco, eighth-placed Montpellier and ninth-placed Nantes – PSG is yet to play most of the division’s top teams on the road.
Some punters spent the European summer months speculating on Marseille being the French Ligue 1 real deal this term. One does not have to speculate any more. Marseille is the French Ligue 1 real deal and it is overpriced at odds of +800 with Bet365 and Ladbrokes to win its first title since 2010.
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