Little Lille Leading Ligue 1

May 11, 2011 — by Suman1

What’s one to do until the highly anticipated Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United (Saturday May 28 btw)?  All the big European league winners have been virtually decided over the past couple weekends, and in each case there’s been little drama–the champions have each been atop their respective tables for some time.  Manchester United basically wrapped up the English Premier League with their dominating victory over Chelsea on Sunday. In Spain, Barcelona need just a single point this afternoon in their match against Levante to clinch the title (though really they clinched it with their draw a few weeks ago with a draw at the Bernabeu).  And despite a bit of wobble over the past few weeks, Borussia Dortmund finally did wrap up the Bundesliga crown.

Lille Olympique Sporting Club - Les Dogues

Well, you could finally turn your attention across the Channel/Pyrenees/Alps/Maginot to France, where surprisingly Lille has put some space between them and perennial powers Marseille and Lyon.

Via a SkySports writeup:

A 3-2 loss to fellow high-fliers Lyon on Sunday put another sizeable dent in Marseille’s hopes of defending their Ligue 1 crown. They now sit seven points adrift of table-topping Lille with time running out on the 2010/11 campaign.

Marseille do have a game in hand on the leaders, though, and Deschamps insists his side will not be giving up without a fight.

“Can we retain our title? We have only taken one point from the last two matches, so that hasn’t helped,” he said.

“But there are still 12 points to play for and it is still possible….

Marseille play host to Brest on Wednesday and, with Lille not in action, will be looking to close to within four points of the summit with three games remaining.


Lille–the full name of the club is Lille Olympique Sporting Club Lille Métropole, and hence they are known as LOSC (and also as Les Dogues–The Mastiffs) last won the Ligue 1 in 1953-54, and spent much of the next few decades down in Ligue 2.  But they’ve been doing well over the past decade, highlighted by a couple appearances in the Champions League following top 3 finishes domestically.  The name we’ve been hearing from the current squad is 20-year old Belgian “starlet” Eden Hazard, who may leave Lille this summer for one of the really big clubs elsewhere on the Continent (or in England).

Marseille and Brest kick off in just over an hour, so you could tune in for that one. For an idea of who to watch for on Marseille’s squad, take a look at our post prior to their Champions League Round of 16 match against Manchester United back in March.  That match–along with a handful of additional Ligue 1 fixtures–are available for streaming on

Or you could tune in to see Barça visit Levante UD and presumably celebrate on the pitch at Estadi Ciutat de València (Levante Unión Deportiva being the second team en la ciudad de València; the first, València Club de Futbol, plays of course at El Camp de Mestalla).


Ghana’s Andre Ayew Scores Le Classique Winner

March 23, 2011 — by Suman2

Andre Ayew celebrating his winner vs PSG

Our preview of Olympique Marseille‘s visit to Old Trafford a couple weeks ago focused in large part on their young Ghanaian striker Andre Ayew (and by extension his famous father Abedi Pele).  And then we told you to watch Le Classique this past weekend.

Well, hopefully you’ve been listening to us.  Although Marseille disappointingly couldn’t score against Man U, you would have been watching for Ayew in Sunday’s match, and he did deliver, scoring a beauty of a goal OM over their capitol city rivals PSG:

Video: Ligue 1 Highlights: Marseille/PSG

Ghana SoccerNet has a Ayew-centric match report here.  For a review of Marseille’s season, see ESPN SoccerNet’s Ligue 1 columnist compare OM to French soap opera Plus Belle La Vie.

We’ll be watching for Marseille’s remaining Ligue 1 matches, to see if they can catch Lille at the top of the table (or conversely, hold off Rennes and Lyon to ensure a return to the Champions League next fall).  A match to circle on the calendar: Lyon visits Marseille on May 5.


UEFA Champions League: Marseille Visits Manchester

March 15, 2011 — by Suman

Olympique Marseille visits Old Trafford today, attempting to advance to the final eight of the Champions League for the first time since 1993--when they went all the way and won the title--the one and only time a French club has won the Champions League. Marseille held Manchester United to a scoreless draw at home in the Stade Velodrome in the first leg--and hence Man U needs an outright victory in today's match to advance. Look for Marseille to sit back and play a disciplined defensive game--and attempt to score at least one goal via a counterattack.


What to watch this weekend: Feb 19-20

February 18, 2011 — by Sean

Champions League knockout play now committed to memory, we’re back into the domestic leagues with a touch of cup action in England, and the rest of the world getting on with earning points. As you may know, faithful readers, we tend to look to the Soccer Insider for our weekend tv listings, but seeing as so many of us watch matches through variously legal web outlets, we thought of expanding the list a bit this week. Fascinating, we know.

All times Eastern US. Click the teams to see on which channel the games are being shown in your country. Fancy!

Saturday, February 19th

7:30 am Chelsea vs Everton FA Cup The pick of the round. Everton has become a second-half-of-the-season team, and though they’ve lost the speedy little Bafana Bafana Steven Pienaar to Spurs, they’re still a dangerous side. Though saying that,  Evra is out with another injury just when he was getting back into goal-scoring form—he was the man who put the Toffees ahead in the initial fourth round meeting between the teams. Chelsea struggled to equalize and bring the match back to Stamford Bridge, but they have…now let’s see if they can put it away.

9:30 am Hamburger SV vs Werder Bremen Bundesliga The Nordderby (or North Derby) sees the two most successful sides in Bundesliga history meet to add to what has been so far a pretty evenly matched rivalry. Neither team is setting the league on fire this year, and Die Werderaner is a little too close to the relegation zone for comfort, but over the course of the teams’  139 meetings, 48 have gone to Hamburger, 50 to Werder, and the remaining 41 ended in draws.

10 am Nottingham Forest vs Cardiff City England Championship Two teams separated by two points battling for automatic promotion through to the Prem. A quick primer for those of you who ignore all but the Barclay’s-shielded teams, positions one and two of the Championship earn an immediately place in next season’s Premiership, while the third through sixth teams meet in playoff rounds to determine the final addition to the top flight. Currently Cardiff sit in second with Nottingham in fourth. This one promises to be a battle.

12 pm Valencia vs Sporting Gijón La Liga If for no other reason than that we enjoy the powerful mustache of Manuel Preciado. We’ll also be watching to see how well Los Che rebound from the midweek draw with Schalke. Sporting Gíjon will look to surprise another top team after having drawn with Barça last week.

12:15 pm Manchester United vs Crawley Town FA Cup We can’t imagine this will be too much of a match, but good for you Crawley Town! The gate receipts and television earnings for this match alone will be enough to keep the tiny club afloat for a couple more seasons (they’d been in administration in the 90s and nearly went kaput mid 00s). Other fun fact, this match will see the meeting of the red devils and the red devils.

12:30 pm FSV Mainz 05 vs Bayern München Bundesliga Bayern started the season slowly but have now climbed to third (though still thirteen points behind league-leaders Borussia Dortmund). Die Roten have had a rough go with Ribery and Robben both out for significant spells due to injury, though they are slated to play together come this weekend even though Robben pulled up in training. Mainz sit just two points behind the visiting side in fifth. This is a squad with a long history of not playing in the top flight, but the last decade has been something quite different for the team, which saw them playing top flight ball 5 non-consecutive years. Now they’re challenging for a place in Europe after starting the season with eight wins.

1 pm Olympique Marseille vs Saint-Étienne Ligue 1 We never point to the French league, so in the spirit of fairness let’s all have a quick look at two teams fighting for a place in Europe. Marsielle host Man United in Champions League play next week so would normally look to rest a few key starters, but the less-monied St. Étienne side are only a few points back from last year’s Ligue 1 champions, and though they haven’t produced the kind of quality on display in the mid 60s-70s or even the 90s (when they developed the likes of Laurent Blanc, and Michel Platini) they are sure to put up a solid front at home.

7:15 pm Racing Club vs Boca Juniors Primera División It’s the start of the clausura (the Argentine season is split in two, with a start “apertura” and a closing “clausura” season), and the Boca boys are in last place after one game on a -3 goal difference. It’s sure to turn around, there is plenty of time to find the top of the table, but if you’re going to commit to some league play why not start at the beginning?

Sunday, February 20th

7:30 am Celtic vs Rangers Scottish Premier League Old firm derby: A massive tie with plenty of history behind it, either of these teams is generally a lock for the league title, and this year Celtic (playing at home) are a comfortable five points clear of their Glaswegian neighbours. Rangers being the Protestant side and Celtic having Catholic ties, the derby tends to dredge up all the conflict between subsections of the rival systems…any excuse to beat each other with a bat:

The Old Firm rivalry fuels many assaults and many deaths on Old Firm Derby days; an activist group that monitors sectarian activity in Glasgow has reported that on Old Firm weekends, admissions to hospital emergency rooms increase ninefold over normal levels, and journalist Franklin Foer noted that in the period from 1996 to 2003, eight deaths in Glasgow were directly linked to Old Firm matches, and hundreds and thousands of assaults.

10 am Fulham vs Bolton FA Cup We expect this will be a very even game, both teams being very organized in back and having a very even midfield between them. We’ll be tuning in from Stateside as some US faves (in the form of Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey) will be facing off in knockout action. Stu, well known for his hairstyle, has been both breaking attacks and serving the ball well, while Clint has moved with some success into a central striker role (classic #9 stuff).

3 pm Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao La Liga You may have heard about Barça’s loss this week. Well they’re back at home and we’re wondering how they’ll react. Puyol is due back to shore up the center of their defense, and, well, what more can you say except that loss will probably just be treated as a blip. Though…of three teams to have never been relegated from the first division, the third is Athletic Bilbao (the first two Madrid and Barça, of course). Also, before their Basque neighbors started offering citizenship to foreign players to get around the max-three non-nationals on a team, Bilbao was a serious force, handing Barça a 12–1 loss, their worst ever defeat. There’s a lot of pride behind this match-up. Could be a shock or a blowout.