Leaders Marseille take on second-placed Monaco

This weekend could bring the game of the Ligue 1 season so far, with leaders Marseille taking on second-placed Monaco. After a rocky start, champions PSG should take three points from newly promoted Guingamp.

Leaders Marseille take on second-placed Monaco
Laurent Blanc, coach of French champions PSG, trains under a banner saying "Let's Dream Bigger." His team is currently in 8th place after a shaky start to the season. Photo: Bonaventure

Laurent Blanc's PSG have flattered to deceive during the early stages of the new season but the coach received the backing of his Qatari paymasters this week after the capital club followed up two draws by recording their first win of the campaign at Nantes last Sunday.

"In any case, it's better than last season when we only had three points after three matches," said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, before veiled criticism of Blanc's predecessor Carlo Ancelotti, who has since departed for Real Madrid.

"Of course, Carlo did a great job here but today even if there are many things to improve, we are playing better football than last season. And that is very important in my eyes," he continued before confirming his confidence in 1998 World Cup winner Blanc.

"To recruit him was an excellent decision. His work is even better than what we expected of him."

Blanc has a near full-strength squad at his disposal for the visit of the Bretons, with Jeremy Menez the only absentee as he works his way back to fitness after a back operation.

While most pundits expected PSG's principle challenge to emerge from Claudio Ranieri's expensively-assembled Monaco side, it has been the mild-mannered Elie Baup who has fashioned three straight wins to lead 2010 champions Marseille to the summit.

The club are embroiled in an unsavoury dispute with Lille over the potential transfer of talented 20-year-old winger Florian Thauvin, who has caused uproar at the northern club after boycotting training in midweek in an attempt to force a move to the Stade Velodrome.

Lille have rejected a €10 million euro ($13.2m) offer for the under-20 world champion – who only arrived from Bastia in the close season – and threatened to relegate Thauvin to the reserves if he continues to hold out for a transfer.

"It is a gesture that is unacceptable, even deplorable with regard to Lille and French football," fumed Lille general director Frederic Paquet.

Monaco got off to a flying start with six goals and two wins in their opening matches against Bordeaux and Montpellier before a tame 0-0 draw at home to Toulouse, played behind closed doors as punishment for crowd trouble after they won promotion last season.

A win at their southern rivals would see them go a point clear at the top, regardless of other results.

Lyon, champions seven years in a row in the last decade, have seen their season badly compromised already after crashing out of the Champions League at the play-off stage in midweek, outclassed 4-0 on aggregate by Spanish side Real Sociedad.

That will cost the club at least €20 million in lost revenue while their only consolation is a place in the less lucrative Europa League.  This weekend, OL make the short trip to bottom-of-the-table Evian.

It was a bad week all round for French clubs in Europe, with Saint-Etienne and Nice both exiting the Europa League at the play-off stage.

Les Verts will look to put their disappointment behind them when they face Bordeaux on Sunday, before Nice entertain 2012 champions Montpellier in what will be the last game to be played at their old Stade du Ray before they move to their new 35,000-seat Allianz Riviera ground.

Among the other games, Italian coach Fabrizio Ravanelli goes in search of his first victory in charge of Ajaccio away to Sochaux, while Rennes play host to Lille.

Fixtures (all French time)


Evian v Lyon (1400), Paris Saint-Germain v Guingamp (1700), Bastia v Toulouse, Lorient v Valenciennes, Reims v Nantes, Rennes v Lille, Sochaux v Ajaccio (2000)


Saint-Etienne v Bordeaux (1400), Nice v Montpellier (1700), Marseille v Monaco (2100)

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


‘Not football’s job’ to combat homophobia: French football chief

The head of French football has pulled away from a hardline stance against homophobic chanting and banners in stadiums on Friday, saying that "too many matches" have been stopped due to anti-gay abuse.

'Not football's job' to combat homophobia: French football chief

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), said that the FFF would not instruct referees to stop matches except in cases when a “whole stadium” was guilty of homophobic chanting.

“I think we're stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can't be taken hostage by vulgarity,” said Le Graet in an interview with newspaper Ouest-France.

Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season after the French football League (LFP) introduced over the summer plans to tackle fan homophobia during matches, including allowing referees to stop games.

“Matches have been stopped when they shouldn't have been,” Le Graet continued.

“We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don't see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”

Le Graet referred to France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse, and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa.

Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille's 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans, but Le Graet insisted that it wasn't football's job to combat homophobia.

Paris Saint-Germain's match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts' supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.

“Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues,” he said.

“This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don't stick their oar in every morning, who don't want to just look good in front of the television cameras.”