Ligue 1 title race thrills again

By the end of the weekend, Paris St Germain were top again, with Marseille second and St Etienne third. Lyon and Bordeaux were fourth and fifth, with two points separating all five. A further two points adrift are the trio of Rennes, Valenciennes and Toulouse.

It amounts to another thrilling title race in France. This is a league unlike most in Europe’s top divisions. Exceptionally tight between a group of teams and fairly unpredictable. One week Paris St Germain look like they may start to run away with it. The next Lyon are looking strong, and then Marseille come back into contention. Meanwhile, lurking around are Bordeaux, who continue to show impressive consistency and could be the dark horse in this particular battle.

That is without even mentioning Lille or Montpellier, the last two champions of France. Montpellier, the reigning champions, are languishing in 12th, with Lille in ninth, and neither look like they will battle for the title this season. This is an ultra competitive league, in a country which has had five different champions in the last five years. Germany, Italy, England and Spain cannot compete with that.

The closest to matching France is Germany, where teams like Wolfsburg and Stuttgart have won the title in recent years. But even there Bayern Munich are the perpetual dominant force and Borussia Dortmund have now broken away from the pack of teams which occasionally threatens Bayern’s dominance.

The French league is the best in Europe when it comes to providing entertainment. A tactical, mainly slightly defensive but still enjoyable to watch league which has enough teams in positions where they can launch a challenge for the title. Where else could you have a team like Montpellier, who came almost literally from nowhere to take the crown last season at the expense of the ultra rich Paris St Germain?

It all mounts up to another season which promises a thrilling title race through the winter and into spring. Two years ago, a similarly tight battle saw Lille and Marseille eventually break away. Last year, it was Paris St Germain and Montpellier. The year before, it had been Marseille, edging out a clutch of sides at the end, whilst the year before that Bordeaux had just sneaked ahead of the pack at the season’s conclusion.

As Europe’s leading teams impose their authority over the coming months, Bayern and Dortmund eeking ahead in Germany, Juventus already heading the way in Italy, Barcelona and Real Madrid imperious in Spain and the two Manchester sides looking strong in England, it is France where the true unpredictability and entertainment is to be had.