Ligue 1 midseason report – can Bordeaux stay ahead of Lyon?

It’s been a real roller coaster ride for many teams in the French league this season. With half a season gone and a deserved winter break underway it’s a good time to look back at what’s happened so far in one of Europe’s most competitive league.

The title race

After Bordeaux broke the dominance of Lyon last season, the beaten team made big money signings in the summer. Lisandro Lopez, Aly Cissokho, Bafetimbi Gomis and Michel Bastos to name a few, were all brought in to try and reclaim the title. Marseille, last season’s 2nd placed team, also didn’t held back in the transfer market. New manager Didier Deschamps brought in record signing Lucho Gonazalez, whilst also nicking one of the league’s most dominant centre-back’s Souleymane Diawara from rivals Bordeaux.

But the signings haven’t quite had the effect that was hoped for. Whilst Lyon and Marseille, alongside improving PSG and Monaco and surprise packages Auxerre and Montpellier, last season’s 2nd placed team from Ligue 2, kept up with last season’s champions, Bordeaux soon started to dominate the standings.

It hasn’t been a one horse race though. The league table has so far seen three different leaders – Bordeaux, Lyon and Auxerre – with Marseille, Montpellier, Monaco, PSG and Valencienne close by.

Only in the last matchweeks, before the winter break, Bordeaux started to slip further away and won the Autumn round with 43 points, 9 points ahead Lille, who are left cursing the break after a 6 match winning run, scoring 23 goals.

Midtable battle

As said, it’s a very tight battle so far this season in France. Only 10 points separate 4th Marseille from 16th placed Nice, who will be the team hit hardest by the African Cup of Nations. Last season’s Ligue 2 champions Lens have seen their recent from lifting them to a safe 13th position with 10 points away from the danger zone.

Toulouse, who not long ago were playing in the Champions league 3rd qualifying round, have found it tough this season with star striker Andra-Pierre Gignac struggling to find his goal scoring touch. Monaco and Valencienne, after a very impressing start to the season, Monaco’s left winger Brazilian Nene is still the 2nd best scorer of the league, are also in the mix.

Relegation fight

Whilst it’s competitive and interesting in every other part of the league table, the relegation fight looks quite straight forward. It took Grenoble an incredible 13 rounds before finally managing their first point. Life after that has been a bit happier, having even recorded a win and 7 points, but the side from the Alps is still glued to the bottom and look doomed.

Boulogne’s season hasn’t also been the best, but if they can win their game in hand, which is Ligue 1’s first match of 2010 against Sochaux on 13 January, they’ll be on level 16 points with fellow strugglers Saint-Etienne and Le Mans, who also are the only teams so far to change their managers. Le Mans sacked Paulo Duarte on 10 December and Saint-Etienne, France’s most succesful team in history with 10 league titles, parted ways with Alain Perrin five days later.

Looking ahead

The African Cup of Nations starting on 10 January will no doubt shake the league table even further, but probably only a miracle can prevent Bordeaux from defending their title. Or maybe European football. Bordeaux and Lyon both have showed quality football in Europe and Champions League offers a distraction compared to other teams.

It will be interesting to see if Montpellier can continue their phenomenal season. Having been promoted, the team from South of France, are currently flying high at 3rd. Lille’s amazing recent goal scoring and winning form has seen them turning out to be Bordeaux’s main challenger’s for the title. Auxerre’s good start seems to be over, but they’re still in contention for an European place.

A number of surprising names are in the frame for European football, with Valencienne being the most unfamiliar name near the top. Marseille and Lyon need big improvement to stay at the top, but even a miracle can’t save Grenoble anymore. Caen and Stade Brestois look to be the favorites to get promoted for next season.

This article is sponsored by Casino Online.

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