Ligue 1 Betting: League suspension interrupts thrilling race for European places
France's top flight goes into its enforced break with a number of unresolved issues at both ends of the table, writes James Eastham...
Matches postponed until early April
You could tell things for French football would change the minute Emmanuel Macron begun his live televised address to the nation on Thursday night. The country's premier described the coronavirus as "the greatest health crisis France has known for a century".
Later that same evening the French FA announced all amateur fixtures would be postponed until further notice. On Friday morning, following an emergency meeting, the LFP - the body that oversees France's two professional divisions - came to the same conclusion.
This was a sea change of position in a matter of days. As recently as Tuesday this week decision-makers in France had decided that playing games 'a huis clos' - behind closed doors - was the way forward. We were heading towards the weekend expecting games to be played in empty stadiums. Business as usual minus the fans, you might say.
Instead we've entered a period of indeterminate length where top-flight games are postponed. With 10 rounds of the 38-match season remaining, the earliest the players will be back on the pitch is early April.
Rennes and Lille vying for Champions League spot
You could declare the Ligue 1 season over today and it would make no difference to the identity of those collecting the winners' medals. PSG are 12 points ahead of second-placed Marseille with a game in hand. The club from the French capital's chances of securing a seventh title triumph in eight seasons are every bit as sure as their odds of1.03 suggest.
The real fun and games for the watching audience were taking place among the chasing pack. With two other Champions League places up for grabs and the Europa League positions potentially running as low as sixth place depending on how France's two domestic cup competitions turn out, the bun fight had developed into a delight to watch: a resurgent Marseille are sitting in runners-up spot on 56 points while Rennes (50 points) and Lille (49 points) are locked in a fantastic battle for third place.
After that, it's anybody's guess who might finish in fifth and six positions: just seven points separate fifth-placed Reims (41 points) from 15th-placed Metz (34 points). The homogeneity of the division has made it difficult to pick winners on a weekly basis, but also made for an absorbing season in which differences in standards between the team have sometimes been impossible to discern.
Toulouse the division's whipping boys
One thing that the enforced break doesn't change is that at the foot of the table Toulouse have been out of their depth in this division this season. Bottom of the table, stranded 14 points from safety, they've picked up just 13 points from 28 matches and have massive problems on and off the pitch. You can no longer gets odds on 'TFC' going down.
Above Toulouse, Amiens (23 points), Nimes (27 points), St Etienne (30 points), Dijon (30 points), Metz (34 points) and Brest (34 points) are still in danger of filling the second automatic relegation position (19th) and the relegation playoff position (18th). The smart money says Amiens will ultimately finish second from bottom, leaving the other teams in a potentially thrilling five-way battle to survive if and when the season resumes.
Readers with long memories may recall that in our Pre-Season Preview back in August we flagged up Nimes as the smart pick in the To Be Relegated market at [2.25]. You won't get such odds on Nimes now.