There was a massive clash in France on Sunday, as the top two in Ligue One, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain went head to head. The focus was once again all on the big spending PSG of course, with boss Carlo Ancelotti trying to bring glory to the French capital. But despite their big investments, they have not been having things their own way this season.
But will the 1-0 success in the capital start shifting the impetus back towards the expected title charge that is to come from Paris St Germain? Has climbing to the top of the table just before the halfway stage of the season tipped the balance towards Paris?
PSG trailed Lyon heading into the weekend at the top of the French league as the battle for the title commenced in Paris on Sunday afternoon. The increasing consistency of Lyon’s form which had, up until the weekend’s clash, taken some of the shine off the big PSG movement at least when looking at the standings. But failure to stretch themselves six points clear of their title rivals may push Lyon to the back of the limelight again, even though they are still in touch. They didn’t gain the recognition of their achievements in topping the table, fingers being pointed at the Paris sticky patch through November as being the reason why Lyon were taking supremacy.
But the picture of French bias does not end there because Marseille also finished the weekend on the same amount of points as both Lyon and Paris St Germain and yet it remains all about PSG. So there is a three horse race for the French title, but all focus is solely on whether or not Paris can deliver. All other stories from potential title challengers become insignificant.
So the question is, can PSG deliver? If things go the way that they did on the weekend, then it may not be a case of Paris St Germain winning the league, it could be more of the fact that the other challengers will hand it to them. Lyon were disappointing in the important clash on the weekend, and after falling behind in the game against the sub-par Parisians, Lyon failed to mount any kind of response. No challenge was forthcoming to PSG and Blaise Matuidi’s goal was enough to sink them. The lack of fight shown by Lyon was disappointing and it could be indicative of them running out of steam in the title charge.
The bigger problem for both Lyon, Marseille and anyone else who will be able to step up over the second half of the season to challenge, is that they won’t have the funds that PSG have available. The January transfer window could present Carlo Ancelotti with the chance to deepen the squad further, with likely additions of Chelsea’s Ashley Cole, Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli and Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder. None of the other French challengers, operating on a budget unlike the Qatari backed PSG will be able to bolster their squads heavily for the long title haul.
So it is a case of Lyon just running until the halfway stage and then falling away? Or can they, or Marseille really offer any long term challenge over the course of the season? The form of Marseille has been patchy at best this season and being such a low scoring team, basing their success on defence, is unlikely to sustain itself over the course of the season. Lorient, Nice and Bordeaux have quietly been having good seasons, but have large gaps to claw their way to the top of the league.
So the forecast for Ligue 1 looks as if it will come to whether or not Lyon can keep hang on to the coattails of PSG after the January transfers have come to a close or not.
So why is is Paris St Germain who are gaining all of the attention still? The big signings like Zlatan Ibrahimovic have put the Paris club firmly in the limelight and it is because they can easily add to the weight of their talent. Living up to title expectations may be out of their hands, it could be the failure of the rest of the title challengers that will hand it to them.