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France Preview: Case for and against Lyon and Marseille
by Paul Kennedy, August 3rd, 2007 6:45AM

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Lyon is bidding for a seventh successive title in France's Ligue 1, which begins its 2007-08 season on Saturday, but it should get a serious challenge from Marseille, which is looking for its first title in more than a decade. Here's the case for and against Lyon and Marseille.

CASE FOR LYON.
Lyon started to look stale after opening up a huge lead in the first half of the 2006-07 season, so there was a shakeup in the offseason.

OL has a new coach in Alain Perrin, replacing Gerard Houllier. Mathieu Bodmer and Ivorian Kader Keita were signed from Lille and should provide help in midfield. Italian international Fabio Grosso will take over at left back.

Lyon is also the deepest team in France with exciting young forwards Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Harfa still looking to gain permanent spots in the first team.

CASE AGAINST LYON.
Lyon lost three of its best players -- France midfielder Florent Malouda moved to Chelsea, France left back Eric Abidal signed with Barcelona, and Portugal midfielder Tiago joined Juventus. OL collected more than $70 million in offseason transfers.

The biggest loss is goalie and team leader Gregory Coupet, out of action until at least the middle of November after suffering a freak knee injury in training on Thursday when after his foot got caught in the net. Coupet tried to look on the positive side of the injury.

"That's life," Coupet told his club's television channel, OL-TV. "It's not the end of the world. I heard a crack and I feared it could be much worse. The good side to it is that we have a rugby World Cup coming and I'll be able to enjoy every bit of it."

CASE FOR MARSEILLE.
OM has France's new star, playmaker Samir Nasri, being hailed as the new Zinedine Zidane, and France striker Djibril Cisse, is back and healthy after its loan deal with Liverpool was turned into a transfer.

Dutch star Boudewijn Zenden was signed from Liverpool and will be a major force on the left wing. Marseille also added central defender Gael Givet from Monaco and Algeria midfielder Karim Ziani from Sochaux.

"For three years," says Marseille president Pape Diouf, "our goal has been to improve each year. This year our goal is to again qualify for the Champions League but in a little easier fashion."

The acquisition of Givet and Ziani was to give OM some more experience.

CASE AGAINST MARSEILLE.
Since returning to the First Division after the scandals of 1993 and its forced relegation in 1994, OM has not won a major trophy.

Franck Ribery, the best player in Ligue 1, left OM for Bayern Munich in a $32 million transfer deal.
convinced Liverpool

LIGUE 1 OPENING WEEKEND
Aug. 4
Strasbourg vs. Marseille
Caen vs. Nice
Paris SG vs. Sochaux
Bordeaux vs. Lens
Monaco vs. St. Etienne
Rennes vs. Nancy
Valenciennes vs. Toulouse
Lille vs. Lorient
Aug. 5
Le Mans vs. Metz
Lyon vs. Auxerre



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