Marseille hope to consume Bordeaux
French fans will get an early idea of how this year's title race may shape up when the pride of the southwest, reigning champions Bordeaux, travel over to the Mediterranean cauldron of Marseille's Stade Velodrome.
Both sides have made a sparkling start to the season - Bordeaux head the table with a maximum nine points from their three outings to date while Marseille dropped two points last weekend at Rennes, leaving them joint second with Lyon and Paris St Germain.
Bordeaux should receive a warm enough reception given that their coach, Laurent Blanc, once played for Marseille and was long a team-mate in the victorious French FIFA World Cup™ squad in 1998. Blanc's men will certainly not be short on confidence after last season's exploits and their ability to transfer that form onto the new campaign.
After last week's 4-0 thrashing of Nice, defender Michael Ciani noted: "The team are playing with confidence and are full of self-assurance. The first three games will help us to maintain our confidence. Against Marseille, we will have to control the game as much as possible - that will be a tall order," said Ciani, who insisted that Bordeaux's minimal close season personnel changes are a plus point.
"It's still early days at this stage - but our group has not changed. There are those who say their squad has changed quite a bit. So let's hope they have not bedded down yet and we can benefit from that."
Lyon, fresh from crushing Anderlecht to gain their passage to the group phase of the UEFA Champions League, take on Nancy in Saturday's late match. Nancy started well enough, winning their first two matches, but then a weekend reverse at Le Mans showed up their limitations.
And they are unlikely to stand in the way of a Lyon side who are resurgent after failing last season to make it eight titles on a roll. Karim Benzema and Juninho may have gone on to sample pastures new - Benzema makes his Real Madrid debut this weekend after taking his career into an entirely different orbit at the Bernabeu - but Argentine Lisandro Lopez, with five goals to his credit already since joining from Porto, has filled the gap.
"We can only be very satisfied with him," purred Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas of the €24-million man whose emphatic showing against Anderlecht paid off a large chunk of his fee in guaranteeing at least six matches spread over almost four months of Champions League action. "He has been exemplary," says coach Claude Puel, who salutes the striker's "great tactical intelligence."
Paris St Germain, having won last week at Valenciennes, must keep the momentum going against Lille at the Parc des Princes on Sunday - just the kind of game the capital club would have drawn in recent seasons to frustrate fans who have not seen the league title brought home in 15 years. Lille are winless in their three matches to date and if PSG are to have a say in this year's championship this is a match from which they cannot afford to take less than full points.
Elsewhere, promoted Lens have made a good start with two victories for one loss and will expect to get past Rennes at their own Stade Bollaert while Monaco will have a tougher task at Sochaux if they are to bag a third success of their own. Fallen giants St Etienne will, along with fellow former champions Auxerre, hope finally to get off the mark at home to modest Grenoble. Auxerre travel to Boulogne.