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Ligue 1 Focus - French chief proud of French revelations

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By Adam Faulkner

Saturday 07 November 2009

The president of the LFP, Frédéric Thiriez, has this week paid homage to the Ligue 1 clubs competing in this seasons Champions League. French football currently stands on the brink of a huge achievement for the country’s footballing reputation as all three teams could qualify for the last 16 of the competition.

Ligue 1 Champions Bordeaux and Lyon already find themselves in the hat for the next stage of the Champions League after tactically incisive performances in the group stage so far. Both teams were assured of qualification this week after impressive results against some of Europe’s big guns. Bordeaux produced an impressive performance away in Germany to maintain their unbeaten record in a group which contains European heavyweights Bayern Munich and Juventus. It is a testament to Les Girdondins to top this group in the face of such strong opposition, however, the writer believes they can finish as group winners after such an impressive start.

The dominance of French side Lyon on the domestic front has failed to materialise in the Champions League. Lyon, as in recent years, continue to find their way out of the group stage without too much difficulty. However the recent coup of Les Gones will fill them with deserved confidence. After a two match series with Liverpool, Lyon came out with four points after late goals in both matches snatched an important away victory and salvaged a home draw. Lisandro’s late goal in France assured Lyon’s passage through to the next round and left one of Europe’s footballing giants on the brink of elimination.

Frédéric Thiriez spoke enthusiastically on the LFP’s website, “Two French clubs have already qualified in four matchdays of the Champions League. This has never happened before. Bravo Bordeaux! Bravo Lyon! Five victories and a draw in the last two matchdays after the double success of OM, it is a unique performance that highlights French football in this competition. France can be proud of its clubs.”

Two thirds of France’s teams are through the knock-out stages, however the remaining team is still very much in with a chance of progressing themselves. Olympique Marseille will have dreaded the prospect of being in a group with AC Milan and Real Madrid before the commencement of matchday one. However with two matches to play, Les Phoceens find that their dream is still alive and very much in their own hands. Marseille must travel to Milan to take on the Rossoneri in the San Siro knowing that anything less than a draw will send them out of the competition. Marseille sit one point behind leaders AC Milan and Real Madrid after two morale boosting victories over the Swiss side FC Zurich. Didier Deschamps’ men will take encouragement from the fact that FC Zurich have already secured victory in the San Siro this campaign. Whatever the outcome of the final two matches, Marseille will have given the European giants something to think about and made qualification not as straightforward as they would have liked.

It is a refreshing boost for Ligue 1 football and French supporters will finally feel that the teams are making their presence felt on the big stage. Bordeaux and Lyon are first and second respectively in Le Championnat and have qualified with relative ease after building teams exhibiting an impressive combination of resilience and attacking flair. As Bayern Munich, Juventus and Liverpool have discovered so far – the Ligue 1 contingent is not to be underestimated and other European giants will be hoping to avoid this emerging French force.

In domestic news two of the three Champions League teams will meet this weekend in Ligue 1 as Lyon host Marseille in Week 13. Les Phoceens travel to Lyon knowing that defeat will leave them ten points from the Ligue 1 summit. Marseille were widely tipped for title this season, after a summer of activity saw manager Didier Deschamps bring in players such as Lucho Gonzalez and Argentine Gabriel Heinze, but they have failed to stamp their authority on Ligue 1 as Bordeaux and Lyon seem set to stay at the summit. Deschamps will be hoping for some positive domestic consistency after recent defeats to Valenciennes and Monaco were coupled with Champions League losses to Real Madrid and AC Milan. After pushing Bordeaux all the way last season, Belgian manager Eric Gerets left the club along with the spine of that title challenge either departing or falling down the pecking order, as Victorino Hilton and Mathieu Valbuena fell out of favour. Deschamps possesses a talented squad, which could challenge for the Ligue 1 crown, but the need to find stability in his first team is more important than ever as the continuity and team spirit of Le Championnat’s top two threatens to pull away from the rest of the group.

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