Maignan, Benitez to battle it out
With just one match left to play this season, Mike Maignan (LOSC) and Walter Benitez (OGC Nice) top the Ligue 1 Conforama clean sheets chart with 15 apiece - can either of them break the deadlock on the final day?
Which Ligue 1 Conforama 'keeper will end the season with the greatest number of clean sheets? 90 minutes from the end of the campaign, top spot is shared by two 'keepers with 15 shutouts to their name in 2018-19. One of them plies his trade in the north, and has just been named Ligue 1 Conforama Goalkeeper of the Season in the UNFP Trophies ceremony - as well as earning a maiden call-up to Didier Deschamps' France squad: LOSC's Mike Maignan. Further to the south, Argentine Walter Benitez has turned in a superbly consistent season for OGC Nice.
After a 2017-18 campaign peppered with difficulties at levels of the club - throughout which he nonetheless managed shine at times - Maignan has been a shining light in LOSC's brilliant 2018-19 season. While Les Dogues practised stunning transition-based attacking football, their defending was also first-rate, thanks in no small part to their often hermetic 'keeper. Along with Jose Fonte in the centre of defence, Maignan played a key role in LOSC's ending the season with the division's tights defence (30 goals conceded).
His impressive turn didn't escape the attention of his peers, who didn't hesitate in voting him in for the UNFP Trophy of Ligue 1 Conforama Goalkeeper of the Season. A just reward for the 23-year-old Paris Saint-Germain youth academy product, and one that didn't come alone. Two days later, he received his first call-up to the France squad. The former France U21 international will doubtless be looking to end his season with a fitting result - a 16th clean sheet - as Christophe Galtier's side travel to Brittany to take on Rennes on the final day.
Benitez: Nice's guardian angel
As was the case last season, Walter Benitez began the season on the bench, and as was the case last season, he quickly proved himself indispensable in Nice's goal. Thanks to his stellar performances, OGC Nice - Ligue 1 Conforama's second-lowest scoring team of the season so far - have had a very respectable season. After 37 weeks, Patrick Vieira's side boast the division's third-tightest defence (35 goals conceded) behind LOSC (30) and PSG (32) while Benitez owns the league's top save rate (80.7%).
Everyone remembers the numerous stunning saves that helped Nice to collect numerous points that would otherwise have gone begging this season. His most recent heroics came in Week 35 as he saved Edinson Cavani's spot-kick in the final minutes to clinch to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat. In fact, penalties are a specialty of Benitez's: with three successful saves from spot-kicks, he tops the chart alongside Nantes' Ciprian Tatarusanu. On Friday, the 26-year-old Argentine will have one final chance to shine in the 2018-19 campaign - in the Côte d'Azur derby with AS Monaco.
Will this long-running contest between Mike Maignan and Walter Benitez be decided in Week 38? Will we have a clean sheets winner for the season? All will be revealed on Friday, 24 May...