Ligue 1 Preview, Week 38: Champions League, Relegation Battles Go Down To The Wire

Things have been sorted at the top of the table; Lille are champions, Marseille will finish second and progress directly to the Champions League group stage. Lyon, PSG , Stade Rennes Sochaux will also be off to Europe but which of Lyon and PSG will head to the Champions League qualifying round and which will head to Europa is yet to be determined.

At the bottom of the table, things are a bit trickier. I did my best to go through and break down all the possible relegation scenarios, but after about twenty minutes I ended up in a corner rocking back-and-forth, furiously chewing my nails and weeping softly, mumbling something about Arles being the only pure, good, honest group of footballers in the whole of France. What's certain is that a lot of craziness is almost guaranteed to ensue and if you were left wanting more after the English Premier League's Survival Sunday you'd do well to turn your attention to Ligue 1 come Sunday.

As is common for the last round of the season, all games will kick off simultaneously, in this case Sunday at 21:00 local time/3:00 PM eastern/12:00 PM pacific. Because of this (and the various stakes in each game) things will be broken into three tiers for this preview, based on ascending importance.

For Partial Fans Only

There's only pride to play for in these games, as the fate of each team is known and the only thing at stake is table position.

Arles vs. Sochaux

Arles makes Blackpool look like an all-star team of war criminals. I am going to miss these adorable little buggers so much :(

Pick: Arles, 2-1 (SHUT UP AND LET ME HAVE THIS)

Bordeaux vs. Montpellier

It's still theoretically possible for Montpellier to be relegated, but an obscene amount of things would have to go wrong for it to come to pass. I'm sure their fans will be worried, but in the same way you start thinking about "Speed" when you're on a public bus.

Pick:  Draw, 1-1

Lille vs. Stades Rennes

Lille did the double and Rennes should be pleased with a chance to play in Europe next year after a 9th place finish last season. Maybe they'll all show up without shirts and get sent off en-masse.

Pick: Lille, 3-2

A Bit Of Intrigue

It's possible that the outcome of these games could prove important, but it's not especially likely. Worth keeping an eye on the score, but it's not really where the action is.

Brest vs. Toulouse

Toulouse are all but mathematically safe while Brest are a bit of a longshot to go down. For this game to matter something has to go ridiculously pear-shaped for one of these sides, but given the way this season has gone it's tough to rule out the possibility entirely. Still, a point for each is an almost certain guarantee of staying up and at the risk of sounding cynical this game promises to be about as thrilling as a Books on Tape version of "Ulysses" as read by a clinically depressed Steven Wright.

Pick: Draw, 0-0

Lorient vs. Auxerre

Auxerre are just two points up on Monaco and the drop, but a +3 goal differential makes real danger a long shot. Lorient are safe. Unless Auxerre forget to bring a keeper, there's not a lot at stake.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Major Implications

This is where multiple monitors and gobs of processing power begins to pay off. Three of these four games should play a huge role in the make up of Ligue 1 next season and the other could have a hand in determining the makeup of next year's Champions League.

Valenciennes vs. Nice

Valenciennes are just a point above the drop, but much like Auxerre their positive goal differential gives them a huge advantage over their relegation foes. Still, with Nice in danger as well there's a lot at stake here and even if the outcome does not directly influence the fortunes of these two sides directly, it could very well play a part in who goes down.

Pick: Valenciennes, 1-0

Nancy vs. Lens

Lens are relegated, but Nancy are right on the edge and miserable people always like to make other people just as miserable as themselves. Anyone that has ever been to Medford, Oregon can attest to this.

Pick: Nancy, 2-1

Caen vs. Marseille

Marseille aren't moving off the number two spot but Caen are in a very uncomfortable part of the table and can't expect the visitors to lay down for them. I mean if Ligue 1 were an elementary school intramural soccer league they might be encouraged to be 'good sports' by the gym teacher after lunch in a corner where Caen couldn't hear them, you know, just let them get a goal or two, it would help them feel a lot better about themselves.

But Ligue 1 is not an elementary school intramural soccer league. What an incredibly stupid thing to imply. Where do you even come up with things like this?

Pick: Marseille, 3-1

St. Etienne vs. PSG

The Champions League qualifying spot is Lyon's to lose, but PSG must win to have even a chance of returning to the tournament for the first time since 2003. St. Etienne don't have much to play for, but they'll hope to maintain their place in the top half of the table because meaningless things like that matter to us because people are stupid like that.

Pick: PSG, 3-2

The One To Watch

Only one of Sunday's games will have a major impact at both ends of the table, and it looks to be a pretty great one to boot.

Monaco vs. Lyon

Monaco have looked for quite some time like a hard-luck bottom-table team, but they've not done themselves any favors down the end stretch. Lyon started horribly and though their disappointing season (by their standards) will not pass without casualty they still hold all the cards in terms of making it to the Champions League. Nothing that happens in any other game will matter if Lyon can manage to secure victory, but Monaco are not as bad a side as their record and table position might indicate. In terms of drama, this could be the Ligue 1 game of the season.

Or it could be terrible, because the universe cares not for your narratives.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

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