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Africans in Ligue 1: What's at stake?

Serge Aurier
Serge Aurier

Africans in Ligue 1: What's at stake?

As we close in on the conclusion of the Ligue 1 season, KweséESPN run down the key issues still outstanding for Africa's stars in the French top

Despite Unai Emery's vow that Paris Saint-Germain are still in the running for the title, AS Monaco are firmly in the driving seat to win their first Ligue 1 crown since 2000.

With Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais both having to contend with internal crises in recent seasons, the way appeared to be clear for PSG to establish a hegemony under their new coach, yet Monaco's blend of experienced heads and bright young talents has taken them three points clear having played a game fewer than their rivals.

Monaco's success has been constructed on a bed rock of African talent.

Djibril Sidibe, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Ben Mendy and wonderkid Kylian Mbappe -- all of African extraction -- were capped by France during the season, while right-siders Almamy Toure of Mali and Morocco's Nabil Dirar have also made big contributions.

21-year-old Toure has struggled with injuries at times this campaign, but still averaged an assist every five games, while versatile veteran Dirar stepped in at right-back to make big contributions in narrow victories over Dijon and Toulouse during the run-in.

The utility man, 31, was one of the players who were promoted with Monaco in the 2012-13 season, and has brought some vital experience to this inexperienced side.

PSG's Serge Aurier has had to jostle with Thomas Meunier for playing time on the right side of Emery's defence, while Presnel Kimpembe and Chris Nkunku have both featured for the capital club this term.

Nice's Jean Seri celebrates
Nice's Jean Seri celebrates

After taking four points from their last three matches, OGC Nice's title challenge is over, but Lucien Favre's side have already sewn up third spot -- and a first appearance in the Champions League -- after a thoroughly outstanding campaign.

African trio Jean Seri, Alassane Plea and Younes Belhanda have all been influential for the Club of the Riviera.

Having missed out on a spot in the Europa League final, all Lyon have to play for this term is a spot in Europe's 'B competition' again next season. Les Gones, who can call upon defensive duo Nicolas Nkoulou and Mouctar Diakhaby, as well as forwards Rachid Ghezzal and Maxwel Cornet, are currently five ahead of Henri Bedimo and Clinton N'Jie's Marseille.

Victory at Montpellier on Sunday would secure fourth.

At the foot of the table, it's all to play for, with the bottom five sides all still battling against the drop.

Lassana Coulibaly's SC Bastia, in 20th, have won two of their last four, but almost certainly need two victories to stand any chance of avoiding the drop, while Nancy, who boast Cameroon stopper Guy N'Dy Assembe, are one point ahead of them.

Should the northern side fall at Mehdi Abeid's Dijon -- currently in 18th, the relegation playoff position -- on Sunday, a spot in the bottom three would be confirmed.

Earlier in the season, FC Lorient appeared doomed to relegation, only for Benjamin Moukandjo to lead a revival that rivalled his heroics with Cameroon at the Nations Cup earlier this year as a Les Merlus won four in five.

However, Lorient are far from secure, and defeat at Bastia on Sunday could plunge them back into the dropzone.

Finally, Caen, in 16th on 36 points, and Montpellier, in 15th on 39, are not completely safe.

Knowing they are away at PSG on the final day, Alaeddine Yahia's Caen will be desperate to beat Rennes in their final home game this weekend, while Montpellier should have enough to cross the line -- particularly if the outstanding Ryad Boudebouz continues with his heroics.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.

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