Football: PSG struggle again while Lyon eye seventh straight title

20th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

Lyon drive towards a possible seventh straight title, while it has been a year to forget for Paris St Germain

   PARIS, December 20, 2007 - While 2007 has seen Lyon drive towards a
possible seventh straight title, it has been a year to forget for Paris St
Germain as once again they look set to struggle to stay in the top flight.
   Paul Le Guen was brought to Paris SG in January to replace Guy Lacombe, who
was sacked after failing to produce a team that could challenge for the top
honours, in a bid to hold off a drop into the second division.
   In May the 43-year-old Frenchman was hailed as a saviour after hauling the
side to safety - they ended the season 15th, nine points from the drop zone.
   However, a dismal start to the beginning of this campaign has sent the club
free-falling towards the bottom of the pile.
   In November, after a 2-1 defeat at Nice, the wealthy Parisian club fell
into the relegation zone which started the rumour-mill churning with Le Guen's
position coming under intense scrutiny.
   The Parisians will head into the winter break still hunting their first
home win in front of the capital's volatile fans.
   Marseille put in a strong 2006/2007 French Cup campaign but once again fell
at the ultimate hurdle, losing on penalties to Sochaux in the May final.
   The disappointment was short-lived, though, when the club qualified for the
2007/2008 UEFA Champions League group stage, after securing second place in
the league with a game to go, their best finish in eight years.
   Despite losing their prize asset Franck Ribery in the off-season to Bayern
Munich, the Mediterraneans marched into this campaign with renewed confidence.
But so far they have flattered to deceive.
   Marseille made a sluggish start to this season and after 10 league games
were sitting precariously in the relegation zone with one win, five defeats
and four draws.
   Their poor start prompted the sacking of coach Albert Emon, who was
replaced by no-nonsense former Belgium World Cup defender Eric Gerets in a bid
to put Marseille back on track.
   Gerets' first game in charge could not have gone better with a stunning
Champions League group phase win over 2007 runners-up Liverpool in October.
But it was to be Marseille's last victory in Europe's top club competition.
   In a winner-takes-all final group game, Liverpool dealt a devastating blow,
beating Marseille 4-0 at home to leave the club third in the group and demoted
to the UEFA Cup.
   Despite a morale-boosting win at leaders Lyon in November, which dragged
them out of the drop zone, an inconsistant Marseille head into the winter
break well off the pace.
   As for Lyon, they secured a record sixth straight league title in April
with six games remaining which booked their ticket in the Champions League
proper, where they have reached the quarter-finals in three of the past four
   But in June, following coach Gerard Houllier's departure, Lyon were faced
with an internal dispute between players when France striker Sidney Govou
launched a scathing attack on his Brazilian team-mate Juninho.
   Govou claimed in an interview in the monthly Lyon Mag that the club's form
dipped in the second half of the season due to deteriorating morale.
   "The club had difficulties managing the egos. There were many relationship
problems in the team," he said. "The worst was concerning Juninho.
   "From the beginning of the season Gerard Houllier and Jean-Michel Aulas
(the president) decided to proclaim Juninho as the star of the team.
Personally I didn't care but that posed many problems for some of the team's
main players."
   Lyon made a stuttering start to the new campaign but in November they
regained their habitual place as leaders, a position they held on to into the
winter break.
   Meanwhile, veteran French coach Guy Roux, who in July won his fight with
the French football authorities who had told him that he was too old to coach
Lens at the age of 68, quit the club in August after just four games.
   Former French international Jean-Pierre Papin was appointed as Roux's
replacement at the helm of the struggling first division side.

Joe Allen

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