The Rhone club first tasted glory in 2001/02, by overtaking RC Lens in the very last round of matches, and since then they have always dispelled any tension with time to spare. This year, however, the title race is set to go down to the wire once again, and instead of being cast in the role of gatecrashers, Lyon are the stuttering leaders hoping to hold on.
‘We'll give our all'
Two points further back, Laurent Blanc's FC Girondins de Bordeaux need to win at relegation-haunted Lens and hope Lyon's faltering form continues at 15th-placed AJ Auxerre, but with Alain Perrin's men enjoying an eight-goal cushion, a draw is likely to prove sufficient for the champions. "We must go there to win," countered Perrin. "We'll have to play it as a Cup game." Blanc realises his team are up against it, meanwhile: "We've achieved our main target for this season by taking a [UEFA] Champions League berth. Now it'll be very difficult to leapfrog Lyon and it's not in our hands, but we'll give our all as usual."
Fight for third
The tussle for third spot is almost as engaging, with another UEFA Champions League ticket on offer for either AS Nancy-Lorraine or Olympique de Marseille. A point off the pace, Marseille take on already-relegated RC Strasbourg at home, while their rivals entertain a seventh-placed Stade Rennais FC outfit still eyeing a UEFA Cup place. "We have a 25 per cent chance of making it," said Marseille coach Erik Gerets.
UEFA Cup ambition
With the French Cup final due to be contested by Lyon and French League Cup winners Paris Saint-Germain FC, fifth place in Ligue 1 opens access to the UEFA Cup and sixth to the UEFA Intertoto Cup. Preferring the former competition, LOSC Lille Métropole are where they want to be ahead of their trip to FC Lorient, but they are level on points with AS Saint-Etienne, who host AS Monaco FC, and just one clear of Rennes.
The relegation scrap promises to be dramatic too, as either 1997/98 champions Lens, PSG or Toulouse FC are destined to join Strasbourg and FC Metz in Ligue 2 next term. The capital club enjoy a slender one-point advantage and travel to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard, while Toulouse welcome Valenciennes FC and 18th-placed Lens face the daunting challenge of terminating Bordeaux's title dreams.