With leader PSG racing away, fight for 2nd place intensifies
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 01, 2015 09:36 AM
Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette, right, is tackled by Gent's Nana Asare, left, during their Champions League Group H soccer match at Gerland stadium, in Lyon, central France, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
AP Sports Writer
PARIS (AP) — With unbeaten Paris Saint-Germain 13 points clear at the top and eyeing a 10th straight league win when it plays at Angers on Tuesday, the French title looks increasingly like a one-horse race.
There has been very little to suggest that any side is good enough to stop PSG from winning a fourth straight title, unlike last season when Marseille and then Lyon challenged strongly for long spells, before ultimately fading away.
Instead, the fight for second place is where the competition will intensify, with newly-promoted sides Caen and Angers confounding pre-season predictions in style.
Caen is second, two points above third-place Angers.
Local rivals Lyon and Saint-Etienne are just one point further back.
But while Saint-Etienne's form is improving, Lyon is struggling amid talk of feuding inside the dressing room and coach Hubert Fournier is under pressure.
Here are some things to know about this week's games:
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has played down striker Edinson Cavani's tantrum after he was substituted during Saturday's 4-1 home win against Troyes.
Having scored the opening goal, Cavani was clearly unhappy when taken off with 10 minutes to go, muttering to Blanc for several moments as he walked past, and then looking disgruntled as he sat on the bench.
Rather than reprimand Cavani, Blanc preferred to defuse the situation with a dose of humor.
"I actually took him off to keep him fresh for Tuesday's game (against Angers)," said Blanc, who played for Barcelona and Inter Milan during an illustrious playing career. "But players are selfish. I should know; I used to be one."
BUCK UP, BEAUVUE
With his club struggling for form, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has demanded more from striker Claudio Beauvue.
The 27-year-old Beauvue joined Lyon from Guingamp in the offseason, having scored 17 league goals last campaign — many of them spectacular.
Although he has scored four league goals so far, he has netted only once in the past 11 games — from the penalty spot — and his partnership with Alexandre Lacazette has yet to gel.
"He said he wanted to join a big club, and now he has," Aulas said. "He needs to work on his understanding with Lacazette more."
Lille midfielder Florent Balmont finds himself in the rare position of being in a relegation battle — and has urged his teammates to respond quickly.
"I haven't been in this position often in my career, I don't like it," the 35-year-old midfielder said. "We're in a state of emergency, we can't hide from that."
Lille has lost two and drawn four of its past six league games, scoring only four goals during that barren run. Lille faces Saint-Etienne on Wednesday.
"We're at rock bottom, at our lowest ebb," said Balmont, who has played 235 league games for the club. "The only way out of this is through hard work."
Rennes winger Paul-Georges Ntep will be sidelined for several weeks after a recurrence of a shinbone stress fracture he suffered over the summer.
It is another blow to Ntep, who only recently returned to the side after picking up a hamstring injury early last month.
Ntep was left out of the side for Saturday's 2-2 draw at Reims and further medical tests on Monday revealed that the stress fracture has failed to properly heal.
Following an impressive season, the 23-year-old Ntep broke into the France team in June, making two appearances.
But this latest injury deals another blow to his chances of making France coach Didier Deschamps' European Championship squad.
With Bordeaux slipping toward the relegation zone, long-standing club president Jean-Louis Triaud has blasted the lackluster attitude of his players.
Triaud was barely able to contain his anger when reflecting on Sunday's 4-1 home defeat to Caen.
"Above all I felt ashamed," Triaud said ahead of Wednesday's trip to Bastia. "I had a bad feeling anyway, when I saw them leaving the dressing room one by one, walking at two kilometers per hour. I wondered how long it was going to take them to get on the field."
Bordeaux won the league title in the 2008-09 season, reached the Champions League quarterfinals the following season, and won the French Cup in 2013.
But coach Willy Sagnol's side has been riddled with poor defending, also losing 6-1 at Nice in September.
"I hope the lads will bounce back," Triaud said. "That's what's frustrating, because I know they're able to."