Squad concerns dog Lyon
© AFP

While other French clubs slogged it out in midweek cup action, reigning champions Lyon were plotting to maintain their four-point lead at the summit of Ligue 1.

Lyon, seeded with Bordeaux to start their League Cup campaign in the next round, overcame a feisty Le Havre 1-0 last weekend to create some championship daylight between them and second-placed Marseille on 12 points.

But Lyon were kept very busy off the pitch this week, with club president Jean-Michel Aulas staving off prospective suitors for top scorer Karim Benzema by slapping a €100 million price tag on his head.

On Thursday, the club were left reeling with news that playmaker and captain Juninho will miss Saturday's visit of Nancy, with the likelihood being that he will not be fit for next week's UEFA Champions League match against Bayern Munich.

That European task will be made all the harder given that Lyon's French international stalwart Sidney Govou will miss the Nancy game after being sent off against Le Havre.

The 29-year-old, who has won seven consecutive league titles in his 12 seasons with Lyon, took time out this week to reassure fans he still had the hunger for success.

Respect
"I, for one, have not had enough of winning," Govou told the French Football League website, before speaking about the special team spirit at the club. "It's not necessarily important to be friends. There has to be respect, that is all. I've been in very united squads, and less united ones without there being any difference in quality out on the pitch.

"We're at such a level that each of us is mature enough to give our all on the pitch," said Govou, who has netted ten times for his country.

Marseille will be hoping they can bounce back from a disappointing League Cup exit at the hands of Sochaux by beating fourth-placed Le Mans, and prevent Lyon from pulling further away from the field.

One man looking to get back into the fray is Marseille star Gael Givet, who has not featured this season due to injury and competition for places. "I'm here. I train every day, but I never play," said Givet, who was part of France's 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ squad.

"It's an annoying situation to be in. I'm disappointed and frustrated, but not depressed - I'm a footballer, and there are plenty of people with bigger problems than me."

League Cup holders Paris Saint Germain take on gritty Grenoble, with a seventh-place berth in the championship the prize for the victors, while Laurent Blanc's Bordeaux battle with Saint Etienne on Sunday.

Surprise third-placed side Toulouse, on a unbeaten streak of five matches since their opening-day loss to Lyon, travel to Valenciennes. Toulouse captain Mauro Cetto said: "We're very happy with this positive run that we're on, but we're not completely surprised because we've always had faith in ourselves."