French Ligue 1 2011, Week 12 Preview And Fixtures: Montpellier, Lille, Lyon And Rennes Try To Keep Up With PSG

LILLE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 18: Joe Cole of LOSC Lille Metropole in action during the UEFA Champions League, group B match between LOSC Lille Metropole and FC Internazionale Milano at Stade Lille-Metropole on October 18, 2011 in Lille, France. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

PSG will look to keep their exquisitely shined Dolce & Gabbana loafers pressed disdainfully down onto the heads of the rest of Ligue 1.

We're closing in on the Ligue 1 season being a quarter of the way gone, and I still have absolutely no idea what is going on. It is weird and confusing and awesome, aside from the whole PSG thing.

Saturday October 29th

AC Ajaccio vs. Bordeaux

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

The Ligue 1 table is still tight enough in the bottom half that things aren't looking necessarily dire for either of these sides, but three points either way is going to get put a whole lot of pressure on the side on the losing end. This obviously isn't a good place to be for either club but it's particularly worrying for Bordeaux; Ajaccio is after all a newly promoted side that have made just nine prior appearances in Ligue 1 while Bordeaux can boast 6 titles and were champions as recently as 2009. It's tough to see Les Girondins staying this close to bottom for much longer, but if they can't get a result against fairly obvious relegation fodder the likes of Ajaccio, it's going to be time to start asking questions.

Pick: Bordeaux, 3-1

Brest vs. Lorient

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

Despite some high profile departures Lorient has gotten off to a more than respectable start; after 11 games there's enough distance between themselves and the bottom feeders that any concerns over relegation seem unlikely and though Europe is going to be a very tall order it's not hard to imagine them staying close enough to make things interesting at least for a while. They don't necessarily play the most thrilling football in the world but they've adapted to their circumstances well enough that it's at least worth wondering whether Lyon went after the right Gourcuff. Brest is bad but not bad enough to be considered a favorite to go down (despite their current league standing) and boring (they still have yet to win a game!) but not really boring enough to come in for a great deal of criticism when compared to some of their lower-table brethren. This will probably be a boring game but since it's kind of difficult to hate either one of these teams it's not going to be worth complaining about. Football! Catch the wave!

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Dijon vs. Marseille

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

Hey everyone, Marseille won a game last week! And then they did it again mid-week in the League Cup! That's...two now in the league and five overall! This team is weird. A 3-0 drubbing of Bundesliga champions (and favorite of footy hipsters everywhere) Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League was book-ended by disappointing draws to Valenciennes and Brest. They currently sit 12th in Ligue 1, but are currently favored to advance out of a very difficult Champions League group stage. Seeing as how they travel to play Arsenal on Tuesday, we're not likely to see a first-choice team, but since Dijon is comically awful (and I mean really how in god's name is this club not bottom of the table with that defense) they should have more than enough to keep the domestic results heading in a more positive direction.

Pick: Marseille, 3-1

Evian TG vs. AJ Auxerre

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

This is a football match being contested between two French clubs currently competing in Ligue 1 which is the top level of the French football pyramid. One of these teams is very bad and reside in 17th place, one step above the relegation zone. The other team is not very bad but also not very good and are currently 11th. Both teams rely on their defensive efforts; one team has a better defense than the other team. The game will last 90 minutes-not including additional minutes added on to the required 90 for injuries, goals and substitutions or "stoppage time" as it is commonly known-and when the game is over if one team has more goals than the other the winner will receive three points and the loser zero while if it is even both teams will receive 1 point. 

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Montpellier vs. Nancy

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

One of two things will happen in this game; Nancy will bunker and defend well and emerge with a point (or, if they're incredibly lucky, points) or Nancy will bunker but be overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of Montpellier's attack and lose terribly. If it's the former everyone will complain about Nancy being cynical; if it's the latter everyone will laugh at Nancy for being bad. Kinda sucks for Nancy either way (although I am sure they will mind less if they take something from this game.)

Neutrals should be hoping for the laughing-at-Nancy scenario, because when Montpellier are going well (as they usually are to this point) they are an absolute delight. They've score 25 goals in 11 games as compared to 32 all of last season, and their complete and total transformation is fantastic for the league and one of the best stories in world football this year. No offense Nancy, but take heart; if you would make some attempt to actually score goals, this could be you!

Pick: Montpellier, 3-0

PSG vs. Caen

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

I'd like to propose that Javier Pastore be forced to play blindfolded the rest of the season.

Actually, that probably wouldn't work either. Maaaaaan.

Pick: PSG, 4-0

Lyon vs. St. Etienne

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

St. Etienne isn't particularly good and Lyon is always a tough task at their own stadium but if you're looking for a trap game this weekend, this is as good a bet as any. St. Etienne can keep games close even against superior competition and while they're not going to be confused with Montpellier any time soon (see how weird and awesome that is?) they've got enough firepower to remain a threat against anyone.

'Threat' is different than 'likely to win' though; Lyon is just way better and if they do drop points to St. Etienne at home, well, that's a pretty bad result for them and not one they can afford if they're hoping to make an actual run at PSG.

Pick: Lyon, 2-0

Sunday October 30th

Nice vs. Sochaux

15:00 CET/11:00 AM ET

Nice is basically the hard-working, middle-managing family man of Ligue 1; his co-workers like him but they don't think to invite him out to happy hour on Fridays, his kids respect him but still want to move out as soon as they graduate high school and his wife always starts any description of him with "he's a great provider."

Sochaux, on the other hand, is a roadie for Motley Crue.

Pick: Sochaux, 2-1

Toulouse vs. Stade Rennes

15:00 CET/11:00 AM ET

Oh good lord please let Rennes win this game. The longer Toulouse stay towards the top of the table the more likely I am to have to watch them play football.

Pick: Rennes, 1-0

Valenciennes vs. Lille

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

Some of the shine has worn off Lille's star; adding Joe Cole didn't much help with the likability factor for a lot of folks and a very disappointing run in the Champions League has people questioning their legitimacy as champions (which, it should go without saying, is obscenely dumb.) Still, they're fun to watch and within spitting distance of PSG, which is good enough for most neutrals to get behind them. Valenciennes plays like an upper-mid table side at home and a U14 team from Manitoba on the road, but in this case their home-field advantage probably won't be enough to overcome Lille's actually being good at football.

Pick: Lille, 3-1

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