Week 12 in Division 1 Feminine starts with a bang as the top four battle it out for UEFA Women's Champions League spots and the all-important league title. As we begin 2017, teams will be looking to start on the front foot and capitalise on the winter break.
The New Year has also brought new signings that could potentially cause some shocks as the rest of the league campaign unfolds, and could even have a substantial impact on the title chase and relegation battle. The first game week of 2017 will be an exciting one for sure with some possible surprises, as the league continues.
Guingamp - Olympique Lyonnais
Olympique Lyon visit the Fred Aubert stadium as they take on Guingamp, which witnesses a matchup between fourth and second place. The last meeting between the two clubs ended in an emphatic 9-1 win for Lyon, but this week looks to provide a more challenging battle.
Guingamp are shy of the title race with eight points between them and a Champions League place. However, three points this weekend would close the gap and further their chances of sealing a top three finish.
Olympique Lyonnais currently sit in second place, and will look to challenge for the title and overtake rivals Paris Saint Germain. A more than impressive 52 goals in 10 games for Les Gones will be a scare for the home team; Lyon are susceptible to losing though, with their last league game resulting in a 1-0 loss, which may damage the spirits of the team.
Eugénie Le Sommer will play a key role in this match as the French international will want to become top goal scorer of the league - she has a scoring rate of 11 goals in eight games. World-renowned Ada Hegerberg will also look to damage Guingamp's chances, with her amazing creative and goal-scoring ability. For Guingamp, Salma Amani will be used as an attacking outlet to hustle their way through the defence of Lyon.
The excellent additions by Gérard Prêcheur of the well-experienced centre-back Josephine Henning and the frightening goal-scoring ability Alex Morgan could feature, to Guingamp's disappointment. They may have a big part to play for Lyon’s title and champions league chances.
Montpellier - PSG
It’s third - first this Saturday as top of the league PSG visit Montpellier in a game that may prove to be vital for the title and champions league places. Montpellier have had an impressive season so far, but it will be no easy task for them as they face PSG’s impeccable conceding record, letting no goals in.
This could be the most exciting match of the game week with both teams aiming to secure champions league spots. Despite PSG’s brick wall defence and 100% win record, Montpellier shouldn’t be ruled out; Winning four out of their five league games will put them in high spirits as they will look to diminish the title and champions league hopes of the red and blue of PSG.
Montpellier’s attacking force of Sofia Jakobsson - the top goal scorer in the league so far - and Lindsey Thomas will be important if they want to get any points in this game. Between them, they have scored an impressive 18 goals so far, making up for just over half of all goals scored by the club this season. Moreover, Swedish international Stina Blackstenius could feature after her transfer earlier this month, furthering Monpellier's scoring threat.
However, the experienced PSG defence may be able to deal with Montpellier's attacking threats. It will take some beating to get past the likes of Sabrina Delannoy and Brazilian international Erika, as they will look to deny any attacking outlets. Another Brazilian international, Cristiane, will look to end her two month scoring drought for PSG.
Hopefully, this match will live up to its expectations. Underdogs Montpellier will most likely be the neutrals favourites - could they cause an upset and snatch the title?
Juvisy - ASPTT Albi
ASPTT Albi travel north as they face Juvisy in the first match of the day on Sunday. Juvisy lack in any serious threat to champions league spots, however 11th place ASPTT Albi, who are in the relegation zone, will look to grab the 3 points if they want to avoid demotion to Division 2.
This is easier said than done; ASPTT Albi have only scored a far less than satisfactory one goal all season so far. Juvisy’s bad form does go in their favour though; no wins in their past three games looks worrying for them.
Juvisy don’t have too much to play for. Relegation is not a worry, and they look out of reach for any chance to get a champions league spot. Consequently, the pressure is on ASPTT Albi to perform, and a win would help them to avoid a return to the second tier of French football.
Olympique Marseille - Rodez
Olympique Marseille play Rodez in a tasty mid-table clash in a game that is just as valuable to both teams, due to just one point separating the two clubs in the league table. A win for either team will be important if they wish to enter top of the table territory.
Marseille and Rodez are on fine form, with both sides winning their last two games. This isn’t the only similarity between the teams. The last meeting ended in a thrilling 2-2 back in October, with Marseille coming back from two goals down to seal a draw in stoppage time, thanks to Viviane Asseyi.
However, Rodez will be wary to avoid a repeat of last time, and will therefore look to the more experienced players, despite having a youthful team, such as Audrey Cugat and Flavie Lemaitre. Despite either team not having much to play for, there will be no doubt that each side will want to come out on top as the last game proved to be a draw, so expect a feisty and tight game.
Saint-Étienne - FC Metz
The first league game back for Saint-Etienne will please them, as they play FC Metz, who sit at the bottom of the table. A poor season so far for Metz is possibly an understatement, with nine losses in 10 games.
However, expectations weren’t high at the start of the season for the newly promoted team, with the lack of well-known players and funding. With relegation looking very likely, can Metz redeem themselves and create a close contest with the rest of the matches left to play?
Metz have nothing to gain, yet nothing to lose; This may be in their favour, as they can afford to play without fear. Furthermore, Saint-Etienne have had a poor run of form, winning just one in their past five games.
Audrey Chaumette will be on Metz’s list of players to watch out for. She holds five goals to her name this season, and if Saint-Etienne uses her to their advantage, they could be in for a goal fest.
Soyaux - Bordeaux
Newly promoted Bordeaux play against Soyaux on Sunday in a match that concerns the bottom half of the table. Both sides are looking to avoid relegation, as each team hang precariously just above the relegation zone in ninth and 10th place.
A win for either side will be crucial for survival as this would allow them to climb up the table. With both teams safe at the moment, a loss will build up pressure as the end of the season approaches. If ASPTT Albi or Metz manage to pick up three points soon, this will further add insult to injury, and create an exciting relegation battle.
Jerome Dauba’s Bordeaux will be in high spirits as they play off the back of a 7-0 emphatic victory in the Coupe de France, compared to Soyaux's close match in which they won 3-2. However, this will be an interesting match nevertheless, with two closely contested sides.
An exciting weekend ahead could create movement at the top and bottom of the table. With the winter break out of the way, it will be interesting to see what teams will start the year in winning fashion.