French aristocrats back on the march

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The Independent Football

The football aristocracy is back on the march in France, threatening the nouveau riche reign of Olympique Lyonnais. At this stage of the season Lyons, champions for the last seven seasons under the leadership of the software tycoon Jean-Michel Aulas, are usually pulling clear of the pack. Instead, they will be deposed if Marseilles, who were stripped of their last title in 1993 following a bribery scandal, defeat Nantes tonight.

Lyons could still regain the lead tomorrow by beating lowly visitors Sochaux but, after losing their last four matches, including exits from the French Cup and Champions League, morale is low. They also have problems in defence with a series of injuries, plus the suspension of Cris. "Great teams sometimes have to go through hard times," Aulas said yesterday.

Also with a stake in the most enthralling French title race in years are Paris St-Germain who, like Marseilles, are a point behind Lyons, and Bordeaux, who are three points off the lead. PSG, who last won the title in 1994, when George Weah and David Ginola were their inspiration, visit Toulouse tomorrow night.

Another title in the balance is the Bundesliga, with Hertha Berlin the current leaders in an intriguing season. No team from the capital have ever won the competition but Hertha are four points clear of Bayern Munich, Hamburg and Wolfsburg.

Barcelona, six points clear of Real Madrid in Spain, are at home to Malaga while their pursuers host Almeria, also tomorrow.

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