Saturday, February 25, 2017

Nice vs. Monaco: Ligue 1 title battle starring two Premier League “flops”

Michelle Bonsu in Editorial, Ligue 1 3 Feb 2017

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Radamel Falcao, Mario Balotelli, and Angel Di Maria all had disappointing spells in England, but all three have enjoyed more success in Ligue 1 – especially Falcao and Balotelli this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

On Saturday, Monaco will take on Nice. In prior seasons, this Ligue 1 fixture would not be the big one to look forward to, but this time around it could prove to be decisive in the title race. That’s right. As things stand, Monaco and Nice are joint-tied on points at the top of the table, whilst reigning champions PSG sit in third spot. Last weekend also saw a mouth-watering tie featuring Les Rouges-et-Blancs taking on Les Parisiens, in which both sides had to share the spoils.

PSG, naturally will have one eye on this fixture as someone is guaranteed to drop points. This season’s title race has been a lot more entertaining than anyone could have anticipated, and as we now are in the second half of the 2016/2017 term, Nice are proving that their impressive form is not just a fluke. And Monaco are demonstrating that they certainly have what it takes to pose a serious challenge for Les Parisiens all the way through the end of this season.

Nice vs. Monaco: A title race starring two players seeking redemption in France…

What makes this match even more interesting is the fact that their two star men were the subject of much chatter during their times in the Premier League. It wasn’t positive, either. Rather, Radamel Falcao and Mario Balotelli were the subject of memes, trolls, and harsh criticism for failing to make the grade. In Falcao’s case, he featured first for Manchester United, and then was given a reprieve with Chelsea after suffering an injury at Monaco that saw him miss the World Cup.

Neither panned out, and he struggled in a way that was quite shocking for a man once nicknamed “King of the Europa League” due to his exploits with Atletico Madrid, and prior to that, Porto.

As for Balotelli, he enjoyed more success, at least initially. With Manchester City, he scored ten across all comps his first season, and improved on that total by netting 17 in 32 appearances for the Sky Blues during his sophomore term. But then things began to unravel due to off-the pitch problems and ill discipline, and he was sold back to Italy with Inter’s cross town rivals AC Milan. His return to England a few seasons later was nothing short of a disaster, and this past summer, his agent went into overdrive trying to find him a new home after Jurgen Klopp made it clear there was no room for him at Anfield.

…and both Balotelli and Falcao have certainly seized their chance so far this term

Well, both Balotelli and Falcao have appeared to be players reborn this season. The enigmatic Italian has scored nine goals and 11 across all comps. Whilst he has a long ways to go in terms of the Ligue 1 scoring charts, let’s not forget he did miss a few games here and there due to injury, and has already surpassed the total number of goals he scored during two ill-fated spells with Liverpool and Milan in the past two seasons.  As for Falcao, he has netted 18 in 24 appearances across all competitions, including 12 in Ligue 1, meaning that he has already matched his total from his first two seasons with Les Rouges-et-Blancs plus during his ill-fated tenure with Chelsea and Manchester United.

And for the first time in several seasons, the buzz around both players is positive. Falcao and Balotelli will be expected to play a starring role in Saturday’s crunch clash. It’s certainly not a position that either player would have anticipated, just as no one figured that Nice and Monaco would be the ones vying for top spot whilst PSG tries to play catch-up.

Who will be the one to fire his side to glory?  This will be a game that no Ligue 1 followers will want to miss. For the first time in, well, never, Nice vs. Monaco will be a title-deciding clash. And they will be led by two players who were mocked not too long ago, but now have many singing their praises yet once again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Bonsu


A freelance writer and student who is as passionate about fashion as she is about football, Michelle Bonsu currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews.com, LiveSoccerTV.com, Football-Italia, Top-Soccer, LeagueLane.com, and Soccer 360 magazine. Her areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, and Ligue 1, but she has also written match previews for MLS and the Primeira Liga.

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