Ligue 1 Focus - It's a topsy-turvy league
The seemingly unbeatable force that is Bordeaux has come back down to earth with a bang in recent weeks, highlighting the unpredictable nature of Le Championnat. Teams from both the top and bottom half continue to swap positions at an incredible rate with no club sure of where they will end up come the end of the season.
Bordeaux went into the Christmas break boasting an eight-point lead at the summit but have since picked up only five points from a possible 12, allowing the chasing pack to make up some serious ground. Montpellier, many critics' prediction for relegation this season, have surprised everyone with a discernible battling quality to overcome opponents. As things stand, the seemingly unassailable lead has been cut from eight points to five, with Montpellier the main beneficiaries of this stuttering form. Not only that but Bordeaux have this week been dumped out of the Coupe de France following Monaco's upturn in fortunes, which is mainly down to the incredible form of goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier, who kept yet another clean sheet at the Stade Chaban-Delmas on Wednesday evening.
The form of Bordeaux has obviously concerned those at the top as it was revealed this week that the French Professional Football League has postponed Les Girondins' Week 25 fixture against Auxerre to allow the French champions as much time as possible to prepare for their UEFA Champions League last-16 clash against Olympiakos. President Thiriez has cited the importance of creating the best possible conditions as the reason for postponing the fixture. He said: "It was a common sense decision, based on purely sporting criteria. The idea is to place our clubs in the best possible conditions to obtain the best possible results in European Cup competition. This decision could not have been made were it not for the sporting spirit of Auxerre who backed Bordeaux's request and the television broadcasters also understood. The championship calendar must be able to adapt when need be."
The decision must surely raise questions of favouritism with fellow compatriots Lyon competing in the same competition, but afforded no such luxuries. The same could be said of Lille who fly the flag for Ligue 1 in the Europa League. Similarly, there is no such allowance for the team from third place in the table. The potential conclusions from this drastic action could be that the LFP are alarmed by Bordeaux's untimely dip in form and have taken it upon themselves to give the team from the summit a rest to prevent them slipping out of the Champions League. The evidence suggests that the LFP must believe the team from the west coast has an excellent chance of progressing in this year's competition and are willing to back Les Girondins as much as they can. The decision unfortunately appears to leave the team who seek to regain their former glory, Lyon, with a deflated feeling that they are not the best Le Championnat has to offer anymore in both a domestic and European sense.
Despite a large improvement in the league, which has seen Lyon take nine points from a possible 10, Les Gones still sit eight points behind their biggest rivals and are sure to face a battle to even finish in the elusive Champions League spots. Recently dumped out of both domestic cups by rivals Monaco and Lorient, and with the prospect of playing Real Madrid looming, the chances of silverware for Lyon is looking extremely bleak. The latest shunning from the LFP will only let out a little more air from the already deflating Lyonnais balloon. In other news, Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc has made an agreement with the FFF (Federation Francaise de Football) to become the next Coach of France, which was reported in Le Parisien last week. The current Coach, Raymond Domenech, is to see his contract expire after the World Cup this summer and it is widely expected not to be renewed following a poor qualifying campaign. Speculation has been rife surrounding the possible successor but it has been suggested previously that there would be four names in the running. Blanc, Didier Deschamps and present assistant coaches of the national side, Alain Boghossian and Jean Tigana, had all been touted as possible replacements.