TITLE RACE. Defending champion Bordeaux has opened up a nine-point lead at the halfway point in France's Ligue 1. Losses by expected challengers Marseille and Lyon at home on Wednesday dropped them into fourth and sixth place, 11 and 13 points off the pace, respectively. Lille, winner of six straight games heading into the holiday break, is second, and promoted Montpellier is third. Auxerre, another surprise, is in fifth place.
RELEGATION BATTLE.Grenoble, which lost a record 12 straight games to open the season, has only seven points in 19 games and appears doomed to relegation. Boulogne, featuring former University of Virginia and Chicago Fire defender Bakary Soumare, is second to last with 13 points. Le Mans and St. Etienne are tied for 17th spot in the 20-team Ligue 1 with 16 points.
REVELATION.Belgian Eden Hazard, 18, had a goal and two assists in Lille's 3-0 win over Le Mans and a goal in the Dogues' 4-0 victory at Nancy to close out the fall campaign. He's been dubbed the new Cristiano Ronaldo and attracted the interest of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal.
TRANSFER TALK.Perhaps the most sought-after player in Ligue 1 is Bordeaux's Moroccan international, Marouane Chamakh, who becomes a free agent next summer, meaning the defending champion must sell the 25-year-old striker now if it is to get anything for him. Chamakh and Toulouse's French national team striker Andre-Pierre Gignac are among the players Arsenal has been looking at to buy during the January transfer window.