Top dogs sampling low life

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PARIS, August 20 – August is hardly a time for any one club to win the French championship but it may just be possible for one or more of the favourites to lose it.
Defending champions Marseille and the 2008/09 winners Bordeaux are in the bottom three having both lost their opening two games while Lyon, last year’s runners-up and seven-times champions between 2002 and 2008, are just one point better off.

Defeat for any of them in round three could be catastrophic for their season.

Meanwhile, the presence of unfancied Toulouse – they play second fiddle to the hugely successful rugby team in the city – and newly promoted Caen at the head of the table with two wins from two – give Ligue 1 a slightly upside down feel.

Marseille have seen last season’s top scorer Mamadou Niang head off to Fenerbahce and fellow striker Hatem Ben Arfa is less than pleased with the heel-dragging surrounding his preferred move to Newcastle United – Werder Bremen now appears to be his destination.

The lack of transfer activity has held them back although the capture of Andre-Pierre Gignac from Toulouse and Loic Remy from Nice should give their forward line a little more poke when they host Lorient in round three.

But the continued absence through injury of first-choice centre-backs Souleymane Diawara and Stephane Mbia is sure to raise questions about the depth of quality in their defence.

Jean Tigana’s Bordeaux face a stiffer task as they entertain a Paris Saint Germain side which has shown its stern new self with a 3-1 win over Saint Etienne and a goalless draw with Montpellier.

Bordeaux will be glad to see goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso and striker Michael Ciani both returning from suspension.

Lyon also have injury worries with Cris and Michel Bastos both picking up thigh injuries in the 3-2 defeat at Caen last week.

Another Brazilian, Ederson, is already on the sidelines thanks to an injury he picked up on national service against the USA.

"We are not used to this (kind of start) at Lyon," said goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

"We have to learn the lessons from these first two matches during which there were some good things and things that were not quite so good.

"There was a certain lack of balance between defence and attack and too much space between the two lines. We have to fix that because opponents are able to push forward quickly. We must have a balanced team."

Lloris, 23, denies that the two defeats have added to the pressure ahead of this weekend’s meeting with Brest but did admit: "Everyone should be concerned."

He also insisted that Lyon still have time to return to the top of the table and possibly claim the championship.

"Our ambitions are always there. We know what the youngsters can do and what might be lacking in the finish. The kids are there to learn while we, the more experienced players are there to push for the top.

"The most important thing is quality in the squad and we have that."

Fixtures:

Saturday: (all 1700 GMT unless stated)

Lens v Monaco, Lyon v Brest, Marseille v Lorient, Nice v Nancy, Rennes v Saint-Etienne, Toulouse v Arles-Avignon, Auxerre v Valenciennes (1900 GMT)

Sunday:

Montpellier v Caen, Sochaux v Lille (both 1300 GMT), PSG v Bordeaux (1900 GMT)

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