During the ten years or so that Manchester City has spent climbing to the top of the English and European football, there have been a number of important passages.
The last four minutes against QPR in 2012 – when their first Premier League title was won – come to mind as well as the three minutes it took to get a 3- lead lead 1 left over Manchester United stretching to 6-1 at Old Trafford earlier that season.
Now, after this, there may be another form-shifting period when City and Pep Guardiola will one day reflect.
A goal here with 12 minutes to go, it felt like City might have been looking forward two and a half years to their last Champions League football match when Real Madrid comes to Manchester next month.
] As it looks now, remember that UEFA City will not invite you to play in the next two editions of this competition. And although City & # 39; s appeal against their conviction in the hours before the kick-off here can still change that landscape considerably, the way this game was on its way felt very ominous on what was a very flat evening at the time. Bernabeu.
But just when City needed another stopping place in their history – just when they needed something to give Guardiola and his players a season and maybe even an extra interpretation – they managed to come up with something.
Between the 78th and 83rd minutes of this game, City scored not once but twice. Once would have done as it happens. An away goal and a 1-1 draw would have been enough to take to the Etihad stadium to defy a Real side that did nothing here to scare or impress anyone.
Yes, one would have been enough. Real – however poor they were – had created a couple of half chances after Isco had given them the lead on the hour, and as such City might have been able to get two down and ahead of the competition prematurely.
But as it turned out, Gabriel Jesus' header was soon followed by a Kevin De Bruyne penalty and out of nowhere City had changed something bleak and miserable in their most important win of the season.
Sometimes it needs something like this to bring a team to life and give it a boost. Maybe it also helps with faith. City had previously defeated United when they plundered Old Trafford on that incredible day under Roberto Mancini in October 2011.
Indeed, they had defeated them six months earlier in the FA Cup semi-final in Wembley.
But that day in Manchester represented much more than a big win, it proved to City players that they were ready to take the next step and just over six months later – home at QPR on the last day of the season – she did that.
So there may be comparisons after this. Europe has always felt a kind of strange, non-quantifiable challenge for City, whoever the manager has been. After this, it may not be so anymore and it is the way it happened that might turn the switch in their head.
This was a strange night that looked like a bad night and then an incredibly good one became one. On the one hand it was a night of classic European cats and mice, a night in which everything changed in an instant.
But for the most part football did not fit. It was a bad competition for long periods, a competition that was formed early by the odd selection of Guardiola.
The Catalan returned to this stadium for the first time in six months and his impact was felt as soon as the team had fallen sheets. With Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and – even stranger – with Fernandinho. For such a big competition, he had made a hat trick of very large phone calls.
His team was flat for a long time. Just like Madrid, their lowest number of first half shots were scored on goal in Europe since a match here against Galatasaray in 2013.
Frankly, it looked and felt like Guardiola had disappeared. There are major risks associated with such selections. But over time his team grew into the match and were actually the better side and finding a threat the moment Isco ended a real escape to simply beat Ederson from 13 yards with half an hour to go.
did not threaten to blow down Real's house while looking for parity, but their football was progressive. Guardiola's substitutions were also appropriate, and it was one of them, Sterling, who won the penalty that completed the comeback.
These are strange times for City. Liverpool will have taken their league title from them by Easter and only the courts can give them a ticket for next year's Champions League.
Yet it felt like something important was happening here. A victory at a European superpower always means something, but one day we may feel a bit bigger than what happened this week in Spain.
City's relationship with the Champions League is not over yet.
& # 39; Twelve months ago we were talking about the dominance of English football … it suddenly looks slightly different & # 39 ;: Gary Lineker emphasizes the battle of the Premier League parties in Europe after Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea ALLEN NOT SCORING
- All four English teams went on to the final 16 of the Champions League
- Gary Lineker emphasized the fight that they have gone through the knockouts so far
- Manchester City could change that stat tomorrow when they play Real Madrid
- Man City is at the wrong end of some tight calls in Europe recently
- VAR played a huge role when Spurs defeated them in the Champions League last year
- Marginal decisions cost them the last seasons against Monaco and Liverpool
- But Pep Guardiola wants the team to rely on the game plan against Real Madrid
- Manchester City face £ 25 million fine and two-year Champions League ban
- The penalties are for the club's alleged breaches of financial prescriptions
- ] Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta worked for three years as a coach at Manchester City
- However, the Spaniard insisted that he only wanted the best for his former club
- from Manchester City to buy and pay stop players
- Losing the £ 100m from Europe in 2018-19 would have led to a loss of £ 90m
- City was also handed a fine of € 30 million against which they are appealing
- A prohibition would raise the prospect that Pep Guardiola and their best players abandoned
- My experience means I have always been a lawyer for a winter break
- We have tried everything except a break to prepare players for international tournaments
- I think it is physically and mentally crucial to a three-week break
- It must happen between the FA Cup third and fourth round without repeats
- Everton was in the Premier The bottom three of the league in early December
- However, the new boss Carlo Ancelotti came in and turned his fortune around
- They have an impressive 17 points from only eight league matches
- The Toffees are now within five points of the Premier League's top four
- AC Milan takes on bitter rivals Inter in a San Siro city derby on Sunday evening
- Kaka, who previously played for AC Milan , regretted the fall of the two sides
- Inter are rebuilding and pushing Juventus for the Series A title this season
- But both have fallen away when it comes to participating in the Champions League competitions
Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea were all defeated and did not score in their first legs
Gary Lineker has doubts about the dominance of English teams pulled the Champions League after Chelsea became the third side to beat without scoring a goal.
The Blues suffered a 3-0 defeat at home against Bayern Munich in the first leg of the last-16, a week after holders Liverpool with 1-0 lost to Atletico Madrid while Red Bull defeated Leipzig Tottenham with the same score.
Manchester City has the chance to change that stat tomorrow night when they face Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Speaking of BT Sport after the defeat of Chelsea, Lineker was quick to point out that the English parties had not met the expectations that people before the tournament.
& # 39; Twelve months ago we were talking about the domination of English football in Europe & # 39 ;, he told experts Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Owen Hargreaves.
ENGLISH RESULTS IN FIRST LEGS OF CHAMPIONS LAGUE LAST-16 TIES
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Liverpool
Tottenham 0-1 RB Leipzig
Chelsea 0 -3 Bayern Munich
& # 39; It suddenly looks slightly different. All teams are under pressure. They haven't scored any, have they? & # 39;
Liverpool defeated Spurs in the full English final of last season, with both Manchester clubs also reaching the final eight.
The two finalists also produced dramatic comebacks in their second-leg semi-final with Jurgen Klopp destroying a three-goal deficit against Barcelona, while Lucas Moura scored a 96th-minute winner at Ajax for the Mauricio Pochettino team by going through.
Both City and Madrid were eliminated in the quarterfinals last season.
They would have met in the last four if they had won their matches against Spurs and Ajax.
Pep Guardiola has Raheem Sterling fit again after the winger recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him from the last two games.
Pep Guardiola has used team meetings to try to create a siege mentality from Manchester City in the Champions League after bad luck with referee talks in the past
During team meetings this season, Guardiola told his players to use the pain of those decisions as fuel.
City went on goals against Monaco in 2017, with Sergio Aguero being warned about diving in the box when he was attacked by the goalkeeper in the 5-3 win over the first stage on the Etihad.
Guardiola was sent to the stands a year later, after he protested with the referee in a quarter-final with Liverpool and accused decisions against them in both legs for turning the tape.
City lost 5-1 in total. Leroy Sane had erroneously broken off a goal for offside and Guardiola claimed that a Mo Salah strike was wrongly awarded in the first leg at Anfield. years after VAR did not broadcast the handball clip of Fernando Llorente while bundling the decisive goal.
Guardiola has completed that & # 39; no one has given us anything & # 39 ;, and said: & # 39; You are lucky required. Decisions on certain points are important, but we cannot control that.
& # 39; We must have an incredible concentration in our plan and be lucky in the things that we cannot control.
& # 39; Hopefully it can be fair for both parties – the VAR, the referees. & # 39;
Raheem Sterling is fit enough to start tonight against the 13-time European cup winners.
& # 39; I don't think about it & # 39 ;: Mikel Arteta insists that he doesn't keep an eye on the Manchester City ban because he wants to get Arsenal to Europe … and says that Pep Guardiola & # 39 suffers & # 39; on punishment
The £ 100 million financial losses from Manchester City from Europe would DESTROY their books if CAS were to enforce the UEFA ban on the two-year Champions League
A financial squeeze would limit their ability to buy and pay players, leading to an almost inevitable decline in the quality of their team – and results.
This is just one branch of the ban, with UEFA & # 39; serious infringements & # 39; on the rules of Financial Fair Play (FFP) until 2016 and City & # 39; s failure to cooperate with an investigation.
The city's most recent financial accounts, for the 2018-19 season, show sales of £ 535 million and a small profit of £ 10.1 million. But that income includes around £ 100 million from the Champions League, consisting of £ 86 million in UEFA prize money, plus match day and hospitality income from five home CL games over £ 10 million. Other commercial revenues related to Europe were also included.
Losing that £ 100 million would have led to a loss of £ 90 million. The impact would be comparable if a ban is in force for 2020-21, but intensify if a ban runs for two years.
The city has also been fined € 30 million against which they are appealing
If City registers losses of next season, they can again go wrong with FFP – because they have more spend than they deserve. The simplest remedy would be to sell players, which would increase income and lower a wage bill that last year amounted to £ 315 million.
A two-year ban would increase the prospect of manager Pep Guardiola while the club leaves. Best players can also consider their future.
Or some of the most important & # 39; global partners & # 39; van City, including Puma and Nissan, would try to renegotiate negotiations, is unknown.
For a club of their size, City earns an unusually high amount from commercial income: last season it was £ 229 million – much higher than rivals Liverpool (£ 186 million) and Chelsea (£ 185 million), both & # 39; larger & # 39; clubs that have won the Champions League and have larger global fan bases.
The city's commercial income is so large because £ 130 million comes from sponsors in the UAE, where club owner Sheikh Mansour has a major influence on City's partners. Etihad alone is supposed to pay £ 80 million a year to sponsor City & # 39; s shirts and campus, while telecom company Etislat pays around £ 16.5 million and Abu Dhabi visits £ 19.75 million.
The Korean tire manufacturer Nexen pays £ 10 million a year to be the city's sleeve sponsor after he & # 39; s strategic partnership & # 39; had been contracted with the UAE sovereign wealth fund Mubadala. 8m for an annual deal of £ 67.5m with City, while Mansour supplemented the other £ 59.5m himself. If confirmed as accurate, that would violate FFP.
GARY LEWIN: One game off is just not enough rest … give the players three weeks like on the continent
I have always been an advocate of a ] Premier League winter break – mainly because of my experience at tournaments with England.
Research shows that in the last six months of a season you are four times more likely to get injured in the Premier League than anywhere else in Europe.
If you play every three days, the risk of injury increases enormously. We have tried everything to prepare players for international tournaments. The only thing we have never tried well is a winter break.
I think it is crucial – physically and mentally – on condition that clubs are not allowed to play friendly matches. And that is easy to arrange because you need the FA's permission to play abroad.
For me, one game is not enough. We argued for two weekends – so it was a three-week break. That is 10 days off and 10 days of training. That is what they prefer on the continent.
It was clear that you will never do that during the Christmas period, so January is the time to do it. With Sven [Goran Eriksson] in 2006 we were getting very close but there was no agreement because of the money.
For me there should be a break between the third and fourth round of the FA Cup, but for that you would have to lose repetitions. What they have done now does not go far enough. It's like being knocked out of the FA Cup and taking a longer break.
In the 1980s, players kept ticking between games. Because you only had 18 in a team, training actually played – for the first team or reserves. It was not a program.
Players were not athletes like today. I hear ex-players say: & # 39; We played twice a week and it didn't hurt me. & # 39; But research showed that between 2006 and 2012 the number of high-intensity sprints – and the distance traveled – both increased by 30 percent. Since 2012 I think the weather has increased. It is completely different today.
Six points from the top four with a place in the last 32 of the Europa League, the transformation at Wolves has been quick and remarkable.
The team of Nuno Espirito Santo knows that the victory in tonight's game with Leicester City will see them leapfrog Champions League -chasing Tottenham and are only three points from the coveted fourth place.
They also receive Espanyol on Thursday as their Europa League adventure continues.
Sportsmail looks at the most important components of the wolf side and their walk-in for the second half of the season.
With 11 goals in 25 league games, it is difficult to overlook the importance of Raul Jimenez.
The 28-year-old has been a revelation since switching to Molineux and has not attracted surprising interest from other clubs.
Wolves are blessed with offensive midfielders such as Pedro Neto, Diogo Jota and January signing Daniel Podence, but have no other out-and-out strikers who can act if the Mexican was injured or suspended. That is why it was imperative that they detain the attacker in January.
However, Jimenez is not the only player who can weigh with a goal. Adama Traore has netted five times in all competitions and has also delivered eight assists.
The winger has made remarkable improvements to his game this season and can punish defenders with his pace and power.
Traore is another player who has been associated with a relocation of the club, but he will be crucial to Wolves' hope to finish in the top six and continue in the Europa League.
Conor Coady is the only outfield player who has played every minute of every Premier League game for Wolves this season.
The captain carries his heart on his sleeve and is not afraid to give his opinion when it comes to post-match interviews.
However, Coady is not immune to mistakes and two of his mistakes have resulted in opposition goals.
Romain Saiss and Leo Dendoncker also have better defensive statistics compared to nearly double the number of interceptions and both have won more tackles (32 and 47 compared to Coady & # 39; s 30).
But it is the Captains organization and determination that make him so vital.
Every club needs a leader and Coady embodies the spirit of Nuno & # 39; s team.
In recent years there has been a buzz about the young players in Wolves midfield with names like Jota, Neto and Ruben Neves who appear as exciting outlook.
But it is probably a more experienced player who has been the star in the middle of the park this season.
Joao Moutinho turns 34 this year, but the midfielder shows no signs of delay. The Portuguese international is second to all league games this season and his experience makes him an essential part of Nuno & # 39; s side.
Moutinho has delivered seven assists in all competitions and has also made the most tackles from any player.
His vision and ability to control midfield makes it easy for others to play around him and he is a great example for the younger players to learn from.
& # 39; Bouncebackability & # 39;
If Wolves both start games and finish them, they can get even closer to the top four.
Nuno & # 39; s team have conceded the first goal in a league-high 17 different games this season.
However, they have continued to collect 18 points of losing position, which is more than any other side.
With 35 goals in the Premier League, 26 came in the second half, including three strikes in injury time.
Liverpool is perhaps the & # 39; mentality monsters & # 39; of the division, but it seems that Wolves have developed their own never-say-that-that attitude.
Vision of Nuno
After winning the championship during his first managerial year, Nuno led Wolven to the seventh on their return to the top flight.
] This caused the Europa League football for the current campaign and his team now faces Espanyol in the last 32 after second place in group K.
It was a remarkable rise for a club that only finished three in second place in the second row of seasons ago.
Nuno came a year after the acquisition of Fosun International and was able to transform the team's fortunes with their support.
Although the Portuguese manager has received a lot of money to spend, signatures such as Traore, Jimenez, Moutinho, Neves and Jota have all proved successful.
The 46-year-old is still waiting for a new contract with his deal that expires in 2021. If Wolves does not quickly secure their manager, there may be several clubs competing for its services.
With 13 games remaining, wolves are firmly in the race for a place in one of the European competitions.
Nuno & # 39; s party must play five of the eight clubs above them starting the Friday night game against Leicester.
Matches against Arsenal, Sheffield United, Everton and Chelsea all come in the last six games of the season in which a crucial period could prove to be.
But the chances of the club to challenge the top six and higher may be hampered if they proceed to the final stages of the Europa League.
Wolves started their season on July 25 when they faced Crusaders in the second qualifying round of the competition. If they reached the final, their campaign would end on May 17.
It will be a balancing act for the club to continue their efforts on two fronts, but it is a challenge that Nuno and his side will enjoy.
& # 39; A few months ago we didn't think it was possible & # 39 ;: Seamus Coleman insists that Everton focuses on Europe after he appeared in shape under Carlo Ancelotti
Everton Captain Seamus Coleman admits the players didn't think European qualification was even possible a few months ago, but now it's their only goal.
Everton seemed more likely to tackle a relegation battle after firing Marco Silva with the club in the The bottom three of Premier League in early December.
However, new boss Carlo Ancelotti has revived Everton with 17 points from eight games – only improved by close neighbors and runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool (24) in the same period – they catapulting to within five points of the top four.
While thoughts of Champions League football can be imaginative, the Toffees, without the cup's involvement, are firmly in the race for the Europa League and that is what Coleman believes the club needs.
& # 39; We are trying to conquer those European places. A few months ago, we probably didn't think that was possible, & he told evertontv.
& # 39; But we play well now and look forward to every game.
We I must insist on Europe. I think this club needs European football and we all want that.
& # 39; Where this football club wants to come in the next three, four, five years, it must want European football every year and if we can get it this year, that's a bonus. & # 39;
& # 39; I'm sad we don't see them in the final stages of the Champions League & # 39 ;: the Kaka icon from Brazil regrets the situation of AC and Inter Milan in Europe on the eve of San Siro derby
The Brazilian icon won Europe & # 39; s first club competition in 2006-07, but the Rossoneri have not won the trophy since.
Bitter rivals Inter Milan, under Jose Mourinho in 2009-10, are the only other Italian side who won the tournament because Kaka was part of the party that defeated Liverpool 2-1 in Athens and he is frustrated with the current situation of the city's teams.
& # 39; ide clubs are historical teams, Milan is a beautiful city and Italy is a beautiful country, & Kaka told Gazzetta dello Sport . "I am saddened that we do not see the Milanese teams in the final stages of the Champions League.
" I believe it is a vicious circle, with the revenues from the Champions League you can buy better players and return to the highest level. & # 39;
Kaka spoke about a number of topics prior to Sunday's highly anticipated Milan derby in the San Siro.
AC Milan has yet to lose a match since the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Inter must win to maintain pressure on Juventus and Lazio keep the title race.
And it is the charismatic Swede who, according to the Brazilian, will be crucial for his former side if they want a chance to get upset.
Nineteen points separate the two teams before the kick-off and there was a clear gap in the classroom for much of the campaign.
But Kaka said that the motivation of Ibrahimovic & # 39; incredible confidence & # 39; will give to his teammates and ensure that they have the mentality to stand next to Antonio Conte.
Unlike the 38-year-old striker, Kaka did not want to extend his career to the final stages of his years & # 39; 30 after the decision to retire after a stint in the US.
& # 39; In the last year in Orlando City, I really thought about whether to continue playing or not, & # 39; he added. "But at a certain point I understood that if I wondered if I could continue, it would already be over.
" I made the right choice and don't regret retiring, I do it doesn't miss playing. & # 39;
Inter is drifting three points from Juventus, who travels Saturday to play Hellas Verona, while the AC Milan focus is restoring ground to the Europa League positions.
The side of Stefano Pioli is currently one point drifting from Bologna, which is in sixth place, in the last remaining European place.
Fortunately, it is a completely different story in the rest of Europe. While last season was the first time that the title was retained in the top five competitions, this season fans in LaLiga, the Bundesliga and Series A were able to see significantly more exciting conclusions in their seasons.
Sportsmail judge where all contenders stand when we pass through the center of the campaigns.
RECOGNITION CHAMPIONS: Barcelona
CONTENDERS: Barcelona , Real Madrid, Getafe, Sevilla
TOP SCORER: Lion Barcelona) 14 goals
February 15: Barcelona v Getafe
March 1: Real Madrid v Barcelona
April 5: Sevilla v Barcelona
April 26: Real Madrid v Getafe
The two heavyweights of Spain Real Madrid and Barcelona do not fight against it. at the top of the division.
The side of Zinedine Zidane leads the way with 49 points, while Barca comes in second at 46.
A change of manager at Nou Camp saw Quique Setien replace Ernesto Valverde in January at a time when the reigning champion stood at the top of the table.
Valverde clung to his position since last season's defeat by Liverpool and Liverpool and their Copa del Rey final loss to Valencia. The overall performance was far below the expectations of the Catalan administration and his resignation had taken a long time.
A 2-0 defeat by Valencia and narrow victories over Granada, Ibiza and Levante shows that Setien will have a fight to move Madrid from Zidane who has lost only once this season.
Surprise packages Getafe and Sevilla are only 10 points away from Real, but neighbors and second place Atletico 2018-19 have fallen to sixth place. The team of Diego Simeone is 13 points lower in first place with their Champions League game of 16, with Liverpool perhaps getting priority now.
RESTORING CHAMPIONS: Bayern Munich
[194513002ENDERS] : ] CONTENDERS: ] Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Monchengladbach
TOP SCORER: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) 22
February 9: Bayern Munich v RB Leipzig
March 7: Monchengladbach v Dortmund
4 April: Dortmund v Bayern Munich
April 4: Dortmund v Bayern Munich
April 25: Bayern v Mönchengladbach
May 9: RB Leipzig v Dortmund
The most exciting title race is undoubtedly in Germany where four teams are all taking part in the chance to claim silverware.
Bayern Munich is at the top with 42 points and goes for an eighth consecutive league trophy, while second place RB Leipzig only one point lags behind because they want to get their very first ever title
Bayern still has no permanent manager after Niko Kovac was fired in November. Hansi Flick got the job on an interim basis and is charged with continuing their rule as champions, but the competition is fierce.
Leipzig was top at Christmas and managed to hold on to its 20-goal scorer Timo Werner despite the interest of various European clubs in January.
A top conflict between the two takes place on Sunday as the side of Julian Nagelsmann to the Allianz Arena travels, knowing that a win brings them back to the front runners.
Close behind in third and fourth place Borussia Dortmund and Mönchengladbach, both at 39 points.
For the pursuit package, Dortmund could sign with Erling Haaland of RB Salzburg and retain Jadon Sancho must be crucial in their attempt to capture Bayern.
Haaland has scored seven goals in three games since his arrival, including a hat-trick against Augsburg during his debut, while Sancho has also seen a revival in shape after the end of the German winter break with nine goals in his last nine matches.
Monchengladbach was the surprise leader until December and remains outsiders to claim the title.
A two-goal throw away lead against Leipzig on Saturday showed that it is probably a step too far for the Marco Rose team despite an impressive campaign to date.
REPAIRING CHAMPIONS: Juventus
 Juventus, Inter Milan, Lazio
TOP SCORER: Ciro Immobile (Lazio) 25
February 9: Inter Milan v AC Milan
February 16: Lazio v Inter Milan
March 1: Juventus v Inter Milan
] 26 April: Juventus v Lazio
Juventus has dominated the Serie A in the last eight seasons and won last year's title with 11 points.
But the distribution has been much closer in this campaign with Antonio Conte & # 39; s Inter Milan only three points behind in second place.
Several former Premier League players have been recruited by the former Chelsea boss, including Ashley Young, Christian Eriksen and Victor Moses, while Romelu Lukaku joined last summer.
Juventus, who I appointed Maurizio Sarr to replace Massimiliano Allegri read summer, defeated Inter 2-1 in October, but that is the only game that Conte & # 39; s side has lost.
Sarri & # 39; s team is defeated by his former club Napoli and Lazio who are five points behind them in third place.
Ciro Immobile fired the Rome club with 27 goals in all competitions and Lazio was well advised to hold on to its striker in the transfer window.
They will be hosting in two weeks in a game that will probably determine whether one of them can challenge Juventus. If they played a draw, Sarri & # 39; s team could go five points clear and their fate would be firmly in their own hands.
REIGNING CHAMPIONS: Paris Saint-Germain
CONTENDERS: Paris Saint-Germain]
TOP SCORER: Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco) 15
Seeing Paris Saint-Germain at the top van Ligue 1 will not be a surprise to the rest of the football world.
The side of Thomas Tuchel won the division last season with 16 points and they are already 12 points ahead of Marseille in second place.
However, the champions have lost the same number of matches as their challengers and there are recent signs of friction between the players and their manager.
Tuchel was involved in touchline fallout with top scorer Kylian Mbappe when the striker was replaced during a 5-0 win over Montpellier on Saturday.
This was before the majority of the team attended the Neymar party the following evening. Ch Tuchel admitted that it was not an ideal preparation for the next performance of the club in Nantes.
In addition to the problems with Mbappe and Neymar, Tuchel has to manage a disappointed Edinson Cavani who was unable to secure a January transfer to Atletico Madrid.
PSG should really crumble in order to let their head start at the top of the division, but they still have to play Marseille that doesn't have the extra pressure of European football to contend with.
The real excitement is in the battle for fourth, fifth and sixth positions and potential Europa League places.
In France, the top two automatically qualify for the Champions League group stage, while the third has to go through qualifying.
The team that finishes fourth makes the Europa League, while spots five and six also enter the secondary league when the C oupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue are won by parties that have already passed the competition qualified.
With only six points separating the fourth and twelfth, that means Lille, Montpellier, Lyon, Reims, Nice, Strasbourg, Monaco, Nantes, Bordeaux and Angers can all have realistic European ambitions.