Lille head into their final Ligue 1 match of the season with a slender one-point lead after they could only draw 0-0 at home to Saint-Etienne as nearest challengers Paris Saint-Germain were victorious.

Les Dogues were three points clear at the summit heading into Sunday's fixtures, knowing they could potentially seal the title on the day.

But their performance lacked lustre almost from start to finish, with Christophe Galtier's men unable to get a single shot on target in the first half.

Out of necessity Lille were rather more forceful in their attacking after the break, though their desperation translated to Zeki Celik appearing to dive in an attempt to win a penalty.

They then thought Jonathan David had been fouled in the box a few minutes later, though replays showed the contact was minimal.

A winner almost arrived in the 90th minute as Yusuf Yazici's free-kick went all the way through a crowd of players and appeared to be heading into the bottom-left corner, but Etienne Green in the Saint-Etienne net produced a remarkable save to tip it on to the post.

That was to be their last opportunity, meaning Lille go to Angers on the final day next Sunday with the title race in the balance, just a point ahead of PSG.

It is the smallest lead held by the first-place team ahead of the final matchday of a Ligue 1 season since 2001-02, when Lens were a point clear of Lyon. The latter went on seal the title.

On the final day of the season, PSG will go to Brest while third-placed Monaco – who can still technically win the title as well – head to Lens.

Kylian Mbappe is pleased Paris Saint-Germain are involved in a title race this season as it demonstrates just how hard it is to be crowned Ligue 1 champions.

PSG closed to within a point of leaders Lille thanks to a dramatic 3-2 triumph over Saint-Etienne on Sunday, Mauro Icardi grabbing the winner deep into stoppage time at the Parc des Princes.

Mbappe underlined his importance by scoring twice in the see-saw contest, cancelling out Denis Bouanga's opener with his first before putting the hosts ahead from the penalty spot.

However, it seemed Saint-Etienne had secured a point when Romain Hamouma made it 2-2 in the second added minute.

"We got into a bit of trouble. When we lead 2-1 like that, we have to keep the score," Mbappe told Canal+. "But we didn't give up, we wanted to win.

"The championship is extremely important to us - it is a primary objective. It would be the 10th for the club and we want to participate in the history of the club.

"We want to win, we are competitors. People think it's easy to win. This year, it's good, there is a title race, it shows that it is not easy what we have done in recent years.

"We want to keep doing it. There is no secret; we have to give our all and win all the matches."

Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani have scored more goals in Ligue 1 for PSG than Mbappe. He has 23 in 28 appearances in the competition this season, as well as a further eight in the Champions League to help his side reach the semi-final stage.

Mauricio Pochettino is optimistic over the 22-year-old signing a new deal to extend his stay in the French capital, too.

"I am an optimist, and I hope that the best players at the club, in this case Kylian, will stay here," the PSG coach said.

On the game itself, Pochettino was pleased with the character shown by his players, particularly after they had seemingly let the win slip away when Hamouma equalised for the visitors.

"I don't know if it's a champion's victory, but it's the victory of a team which believes in itself, which does not surrender," Pochettino told the media.

"These are three very important points to stay in the championship race until the end. As staff, we always advocate confidence, optimism. This attitude is very important for approaching life and football.

"The team has the mentality, not just athleticism and talent, but also character. These three points give us energy, a very positive feeling to face what awaits us and which will be difficult."

Returning substitute Mauro Icardi gave Paris Saint-Germain a remarkable 3-2 win at home to Saint-Etienne on Sunday to significantly boost the champions' title hopes.

A perplexing encounter was goalless until the 77th minute when Denis Bouanga had Saint-Etienne in front and PSG, beaten in their previous three home Ligue 1 games, facing defeat again.

Kylian Mbappe levelled just 84 seconds later, though, and then won and converted a penalty to seemingly win the match and close to within a point of leaders Lille, held by Montpellier on Friday.

Yet that was far from the end of the drama, with an awful error from stand-in goalkeeper Sergio Rico gifting Romain Hamouma a 92nd-minute equaliser.

Saint-Etienne had just three more minutes to see out to protect a point but allowed Icardi, back after a month out with a thigh strain, to reach Angel Di Maria's cross and nod in to spark jubilant celebrations.

Former France international Yohan Cabaye has announced his retirement at the age of 35.

The midfielder had not made a competitive appearance since starting for Saint-Etienne in a defeat to Lyon on March 1, 2020.

Cabaye posted on Twitter: "It is with great emotion that after more than 17 years of passionate love for football, with emotions greater than any other, memories that will remain forever and unforgettable human and sporting encounters, I announce the end of my professional football career.

"If this decision may seem obvious, logical and inevitable to some, having spent 35 years in the world of football, it remains very difficult to take and to accept because my love for football is immense."

Cabaye debuted with Lille in 2005 and won a Ligue 1 and Coupe de France double in his final season with the club in 2010-11.

His performances over his final two campaigns with Lille, in which he scored 18 goals, provided 18 assists and created 140 chances across 90 games in all competitions, earned international recognition and a move to the Premier League with Newcastle United.

Cabaye quickly found his feet in England, scoring five goals and delivering six assists in his debut season as Newcastle fell just short of Champions League qualification.

His form attracted the attention of Arsenal, but Cabaye failed to force through a move in August 2013 and instead enjoyed one of the most productive spells of his career as he scored seven times and laid on a pair of assists in 20 games before departing for Paris Saint-Germain in January 2014.

Two further Ligue 1 triumphs followed, along with success in the Coupe de France and twice in the Coupe de la Ligue, but he failed to establish himself as a regular starter in Paris.

Just 30 of his 57 PSG appearances came from the start and he soon left for Crystal Palace, spending a further three years back in the Premier League before ending his career with Al-Nasr and finally Saint-Etienne.

Cabaye played for his country on 48 occasions, scoring four times.

His first international goal came against Ukraine at Euro 2012 and he was a regular again at the World Cup two years later. France's home European Championship in 2016, where they reached the final, saw Cabaye appear only twice and once as a starter.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double in Arsenal's first-half dismantling of Leeds United on Sunday took the Gunners forward onto 200 goals in Europe's "top five" leagues, before the star striker then rounded off a first Premier League hat-trick.

Aubameyang, making his first league start since January 18 following a leave of absence to care for his ill mother, marked his return to Arsenal's line-up in style at Emirates Stadium.

The 31-year-old opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a low shot which had the power to beat Illan Meslier, whose clumsy challenge on Bukayo Saka then gifted Aubameyang the chance to make it 2-0 from the spot.

Having sent Meslier the wrong way, Aubameyang brought up his 200th goal in Europe's 'top five' leagues, in what was his 369th appearance – he is the ninth player to reach the landmark in those divisions.

It was his 61st Arsenal goal, which is 37 shy of the total he managed during his time with Borussia Dortmund (98).

Aubameyang's first goal in Ligue 1 came for Lille in December 2009, before he then went on to have spells at Monaco, Saint-Etienne in France prior to leaving for Dortmund in 2013 and eventually joining the Gunners three years ago.

It was also the first time Aubameyang has scored in consecutive starts in the Premier League within a single season since last February, when he did so against Newcastle United and Everton, and the first time he has scored at least twice in successive starts in the English top flight.

Hector Bellerin's well-crafted goal made it 3-0 to Arsenal on the stroke of half-time – the Gunners scoring three first-half goals in a Premier League game for only the second time under Mikel Arteta, having previously done so in July 2020 against Watford.

Aubameyang headed in from Emile Smith Rowe's cross-shot just after the break to complete his maiden Premier League hat-trick.

AUBAMEYANG'S 'TOP FIVE' LEAGUE GOALS – A BREAKDOWN

Lille (2009-10) – 14 appearances, two goals.

Monaco (2010-11) – 19 appearances, two goals.

Saint-Etienne (2010-13) – 87 appearances, 37 goals.

Borussia Dortmund (2013-18) – 144 appearances, 98 goals.

Arsenal (2018-21) – 105 appearances, 62 goals.

Paris Saint-Germain will visit either Guingamp or Caen when they begin their Coupe de France defence in the round of 64.

PSG won the competition last season as former head coach Thomas Tuchel masterminded a treble triumph, beating Saint-Etienne 1-0 in the final.

That successful campaign started away to sixth-tier Linas-Montlhery and Mauricio Pochettino's PSG will be on the road again after being drawn against Guingamp or Caen.

The Ligue 2 sides are set to face one another on January 20 for the right to host the French champions in February.

PSG have won the trophy a record 13 times, including five of the past six editions.

Saint-Etienne are also away - to Nancy or Sochaux - but Ligue 1 leaders Lyon will welcome Chateauroux or Ajaccio to the Groupama Stadium.

Marseille will visit Troyes or Auxerre, while Monaco are heading for Clermont or Grenoble.

Lille face Ligue 1 opposition in the form of struggling Dijon, and fourth visit seventh as Rennes go to Angers.

Mauricio Pochettino was satisfied with the effort put in by his Paris Saint-Germain team against Saint-Etienne, but knows there are lots of improvements to make.

PSG laboured to a 1-1 draw in Pochettino's opening game in charge, with the former Tottenham boss having replaced Thomas Tuchel.

The Ligue 1 champions moved up to second thanks to Lille's defeat to Angers, but are three points behind leaders Lyon.

Saint-Etienne capitalised on Idrissa Gueye's mistake to take the lead, but Moise Kean's eighth league goal of the season cancelled out Romain Hamouma's opener.

Denis Bouanga hit the crossbar for Saint-Etienne after the break, while Kean snatched at a good chance and Angel Di Maria forced Jessy Moulin into action with what was PSG's only shot on target in the second half as the spoils were shared on Wednesday.

"I am happy with the efforts of the players," Pochettino told Telefoot. "We've been trying since our first day to set up different concepts. 

"I'm happy with their efforts, their attitude. It's only the beginning. They have to adapt to us [the staff] and we have to adapt to them. There is work to be done to get to know each other better.

"We have to improve in several situations, especially with the ball, but it was difficult because the preparation has was very short.

"I am disappointed, because we are PSG and we want to win. But we didn't have a lot of time to prepare for the match.

"We still have a lot of things to improve, to develop. This is not the result that we wanted."

Paris Saint-Germain failed to get off to a winning start under Mauricio Pochettino as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1.

Thomas Tuchel oversaw a 4-0 defeat of Strasbourg in PSG's final game of 2020, although it was not enough for the German to keep his job as the defending champions sat third.

And Pochettino was unable to mastermind a victory to kickstart his reign as a rather lethargic PSG struggled to build on Moise Kean's 22nd-minute equaliser.

That goal cancelled out Romain Hamouma's opener, but PSG were ultimately fortunate Saint-Etienne did not snatch a first win over the capital club since 2012, their point enough to move second but three points behind Lyon.

Both goalkeepers were called into action inside the opening 10 minutes as Keylor Navas denied Harold Moukoudi at one end before Moise Kean tested Jessy Moulin at the other.

Yet Pochettino's tenure had its first setback 19 minutes in when PSG played themselves into trouble, Idrissa Gueye's slip pounced on by Denis Bouanga, with Hamouma supplying a neat finish over Navas.

PSG hit back inside three minutes, however, as Marco Verratti played in Kean to slam in the first goal of the Pochettino era on the turn.

Mathieu Debuchy's low strike forced Navas into a smart stop before half-time, and PSG's goalkeeper came to their rescue again in the second period, blocking Bouanga's path to goal.

Navas was beaten with 20 minutes remaining, but the crossbar kept out Bouanga's header.

Kean snatched at a good chance as PSG sparked back into life, yet Angel Di Maria's low strike – well saved by Moulin – was the only shot on target the visitors managed in the second half as Pochettino was forced to settle for a point.

Neymar remains unavailable for Mauricio Pochettino's first match in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, though the new coach has called up 17-year-old Xavi Simons to be a part of the squad.

Following over a week of strong speculation, former Tottenham boss Pochettino was finally appointed by PSG on January 2, replacing Thomas Tuchel after his dismissal.

Tuchel had been shown the door despite leading PSG to last season's Champions League final, which the German also guided them through this season despite a tricky group.

But the club were reportedly concerned about his capability of getting them past Barcelona in the next round, while he had also engaged in a public spat with sporting director Leonardo over transfers.

Pochettino signed on until the end of next season and his first game in charge is at Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, with PSG hoping a win takes them back to the Ligue 1 summit.

They will have to continue to make do without Neymar, who in December was ruled out until this month with an ankle injury.

PSG are yet to confirm when exactly they expect the Brazilian to return, though the trip to Les Verts has come too soon.

Pochettino earned a reputation at Spurs and Southampton for trusting young players, and he has named several teenagers in his first squad with the Parisians as well.

While Kays Ruiz, Bandiougou Fadiga and Timothee Pembele all made Ligue 1 appearances under Tuchel, Simons did not.

A Netherlands youth international signed from Barcelona in 2019, Simons has long cultivated a keen following online through his social media activity and relationship with Nike.

Throughout his teenage years he has been linked with many of the world's biggest clubs, having been regarded highly at Barca, but it is at PSG where the technical midfielder appears primed to make a breakthrough.

The youngster was named in two Ligue 1 matchday squads earlier this season, though the most recent was in October and he is yet to make his official debut for the club.

Saint-Etienne have pointed the finger of blame at Arsenal after a loan move for William Saliba collapsed on deadline day.

Saliba, 19, was signed by Arsenal for a reported £27million (€29.7m) last year before being loaned back to the Ligue 1 club for the 2019-20 season.

The centre-back was seemingly expected to have a role in the Arsenal first-team squad in 2020-21, though it now appears another loan spell with Les Verts was on the cards.

Or it was until – according to Saint-Etienne – administrative delays on Arsenal's end caused the deal to fall through on deadline day.

A club statement released on Tuesday read: "Long before the transfer window closed, Saint-Etienne had reached an agreement with William Saliba and accepted Arsenal's offer for a one-season loan.

"Unfortunately, all the administrative conditions could not be met in time, in England, for the finalisation of the deal.

"The disappointment is great for Saint-Etienne and William Saliba, [who was] particularly determined to return to the club where he had flourished."

The two clubs were at odds last season as well, when they failed to find a loan extension agreement that would have allowed Saliba to play in the Coupe de France final in July.

 

 

Premier League pace-setters Leicester City have completed the signing of teenage defender Wesley Fofana from Saint-Etienne in a record-breaking deal.

The French side declared earlier in the week that the move would be the biggest sale in their history, with reports that Leicester are paying in the region of £30million (€32m) for Marseille-born Fofana.

Now the deal taking the 19-year-old to England has been sealed, Leicester announced on Friday.

Fofana told Leicester's official website: "I'm very happy to be here. I've watched Leicester City closely since they won the title and they're a top club in the Premier League.

"I know I will learn a lot from the players and the manager here, which is one of the main reasons I came. I can't wait to get started."

Fofana was described by Saint-Etienne as "one of the greatest French talents of his generation" on Tuesday, when they revealed the centre-back was heading to Leicester.

He was called up for the France Under-21 squad this week.

Saint-Etienne described Leicester's bid as "exceptional, especially given the uncertain economic context caused by the [COVID-19] health crisis".

Leicester stunned Manchester City 5-2 on Sunday to make it three wins from three so far under manager Brendan Rodgers in this season's Premier League. They also have a Europa League campaign ahead.

Fofana played 14 matches in Ligue 1 last season, made two appearances in the Europa League, and helped Saint-Etienne reach the Coupe de France final, where they lost 1-0 to Paris Saint-Germain.

Saint-Etienne defender Wesley Fofana is heading to Leicester City in a deal that breaks the French club's transfer record, it was announced on Tuesday.

Fofana was described by Saint-Etienne as "one of the greatest French talents of his generation" as they confirmed the 19-year-old centre-back was heading to the Premier League.

There have been reports Leicester will pay a fee in the region of £30million (€32m) for Marseille-born Fofana, with the transfer a huge financial boost for Saint-Etienne.

In a statement, the Ligue 1 club said: "AS Saint-Etienne reached an agreement on Tuesday evening with Leicester, the current leaders of the English Premier League, for the transfer of their defender Wesley Fofana. The amount of this transfer is the largest ever obtained by the club."

Saint-Etienne said the decision to sell Fofana was reached collaboratively by the club's board and shareholders, describing Leicester's bid as "exceptional, especially given the uncertain economic context caused by the [COVID-19] health crisis".

Leicester, who stunned Manchester City 5-2 on Sunday to move level atop the Premier League, have yet to comment on the deal.

Fofana played 14 matches in Ligue 1 last season, made two appearances in the Europa League, and helped Saint-Etienne reach the Coupe de France final, where they lost 1-0 to Paris Saint-Germain.

In April, Fofana signed a new four-year contract with Saint-Etienne, who are coached by former Leicester boss Claude Puel.

However, Fofana told L'Equipe the chance to move to Leicester was irresistible.

He said: "Coming from a poor family from the northern districts of Marseille, I can't turn this down. I would be mad to say no to Leicester."

Eduardo Camavinga is highly coveted following his exploits for Ligue 1 outfit Rennes.

The 17-year-old's stock has also risen after making his first France appearance.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly vying for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – GIANTS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD FOR CAMAVINGA

Real Madrid face competition from Paris Saint-Germain to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to Marca.

Camavinga, who made his international debut for France on Tuesday, has been heavily linked with a move to LaLiga champions Madrid.

However, Ligue 1 holders PSG are reportedly determined to keep the 17-year-old in France.

The front page of Friday's AS Diario adds Camavinga, PSG star Kylian Mbappe and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano are being targeted by Madrid in 2021.

 

ROUND-UP

- TyC Sports claims Barcelona have made a new offer for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. Repeatedly tipped to swap Inter for Barca, Martinez's agents are believed to be in Spain to discuss another bid.

Ronald Koeman has handed Barca a four-player shortlist, including Lyon's Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, Inter defender Stefan de Vrij and Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, claims Marca.

- FootMercato reports Madrid are considering a move for City attacker Riyad Mahrez.

- Sky Sport says Inter are convinced they will sign Arturo Vidal from Barca. It comes as Cagliari and Rennes try to sign veteran Nerazzurri defender Diego Godin, while Inter reportedly close in on Parma full-back Matteo Darmian.

- Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud has agreed a provisional contract to join Juventus as the Serie A champions wait on Barca veteran Luis Suarez, claims Sky Sports Italia. Juve have also been linked with Roma's Edin Dzeko, Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik and Alvaro Morata of Atletico Madrid. Andrea Pirlo's Juve have also eyed former forward Moise Kean but Everton are unwilling to do a loan deal, reports Gianluca Di Marzio.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Juve striker Gonzalo Higuain, meanwhile, is set to complete his move to David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS.

Leicester City want to sign Saint-Etienne defender Wesley Fofana but former Foxes boss Claude Puel is reluctant to part with the centre-back, according to Le10 Sport.

The first match of the new Ligue 1 season has been postponed after Marseille confirmed they had reached four positive coronavirus cases.

Marseille were due to host Saint-Etienne on Friday in the opening game of the 2020-21 Ligue 1 campaign.

But the new French top-flight season will instead start with a match between Bordeaux and Nantes on Saturday.

Prior to the LFP announcement on Tuesday, Marseille said a trio of "suspected" coronavirus cases had been confirmed just three days before the start of the new season.

The Ligue 1 club previously revealed on Sunday that three individuals within their "professional workforce" had been detected as potentially having COVID-19.

Their communication at the time indicated the club was seeking confirmation regarding these cases and follow-up tests on Monday all came back positive.

Those results took the club's positive cases up to four in the space of four days.

A statement from Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) read: "In view of the medical results communicated by Marseille on Tuesday, the national COVID commission has indicated to the LFP's Competitions Commission that the virus is circulating within the Marseille club and proposed the postponement of the match.

"According to the protocol for the organisation of matches, the LFP's Competitions Commission has decided to postpone the match to Wednesday 16 or Thursday 17 September 2020, subject to the evolution of health conditions at Marseille. 

"The final date will be determined in agreement with the match broadcaster."

Marseille announced a trio of "suspected" coronavirus cases have been confirmed just three days before the start of the new season.

The Ligue 1 club revealed on Sunday that three individuals within their "professional workforce" had been detected as potentially having COVID-19.

Their communication at the time indicated the club was seeking confirmation regarding these cases and follow-up tests on Monday all came back positive.

These take the club's positive cases up to four in the past week.

Marseille are due to kick off the 2020-21 Ligue 1 campaign this Friday at home to Saint-Etienne – it is unclear how these new positive tests will impact on that scheduled fixture.

Friday's match will be the first Ligue 1 contest since early March, when French authorities suspended action due to the coronavirus – the competition was then officially ended prematurely on April 28.

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