Ligue 1 2011, Week 15: Will Montpellier Continue To Be The Only Genuinely Good Thing About European Football?

HANNOVER, GERMANY - JULY 24: John Mensah of Lyon goes for a header with Jan Schlaudraff of Hannover 96 during the pre season friendly match between Hannover 96 and Olympique Lyon at the AWD Arena on July 24, 2011 in Hannover, Germany. (Photo by Lars Kaletta/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Not if PSG has anything to say about it. And it looks like Marseille has finally woken up. Oh, and there's Lyon, still right behind. Why must nothing good come easily?

That headline is obviously somewhat hyperbolic, but not as much as you might think. I suppose it depends on how cynical you are. Me? I can't look at a kitten chasing a butterfly without making an aside about the 12,000 stray cats that have been abandoned by their owners in the 90037 zip code in Los Angeles alone.

Friday December 2nd

Caen vs. Marseille

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

It's difficult to say that Marseille's 3-0 win over PSG last weekend didn't mean something. It's been a very tough year for L'OM, so much so that it was getting to the point that questions were being asked about whether or not the team was under-performing or just genuinely not very good. Given the way PSG has played so far this season and the relative ease with which they were dispatched by Marseille, it's quite difficult to think that the talent isn't there to make them one of the best teams in France. But at this point, last week's win is the outlier. Marseille is a good club, somewhere; they've just got to start playing like it.

Pick: Marseille, 2-0

Saturday December 3rd

Ajaccio vs. Lille

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

Hey, it's the defending champs against the worst team in Ligue 1! Ajaccio is one of the most beautiful places in Europe (and possibly the world) but there's really nothing especially beautiful about the team that bears its name. They don't score, they defend horribly and they play really unattractive football. I want so badly to like them, given the aforementioned beauty of their home, their snappy kits and one of the more fantastic crests in world football but it just isn't in the cards. Lille should by all rights destroy them; this is one of those games where a team can take three points and still be disappointed with the result.

Pick: Lille, 3-0

Brest vs. St. Etienne

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

If you like incompetent attacking play, boring football and a complete lack of suspense you'll still hate this game. That's how bad this is going to be.

Pick: Draw, 0-0

Dijon vs. Sochaux

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

In this week's "Two bad teams that are bad in all the right ways" special, the clubs have agreed that in the event of a draw the winner will be determined by which side can concede the most hilarious own-goal. Because that's now totally a thing clubs can decide to do now. The FFF is totally cool with it.

Pick: Sochaux, 3-2

Evian vs. Valenciennes

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

This is another example of a game that is probably going to factor pretty heavily in the relegation battle come the end of the season; Evian has been a better team than a lot of people would have expected, but at some point a rough patch that puts them in a more perilous position is more likely than not, especially given how tightly packed the bottom half of the table remains. Valenciennes is better, talent wise, than their record might imply but as it gets deeper into the year that's going to matter less and less. 

Pick: Valenciennes, 1-0

Montpellier vs. Lorient

17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

By pretty much every measure, Montpellier have been the best team in France so far this season. That's...not what anyone expected coming into the year. It's also not the same thing as being the most talented team, either; the nod there still has to go to PSG. But Montpellier plays as such a fluid unit that, like most championship caliber teams, they become more than the sum of their parts. It's not a surprise how well this club plays any more; it's becoming an expectation. They're leading the charge in changing the perception (and reality, to a certain extent) of Ligue 1. Lorient like the kind of club that could join them in that soon, but they aren't quite there yet; their defense is superb, but until the learn how to put the ball in the goal they're not going to be much of a threat.

Pick: Montpellier, 3-1

Nice vs. Rennes

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

Rennes are another attractive, positive side that have made Ligue 1 much more fun to watch this season than the past few, and they're well positioned to make a run at Europe at least as things stand. Nice have put themselves in position to maybe possibly score a goal one of these days, so good for them.

Pick: Rennes, 2-0

Sunday December 4th

Bordeaux vs. Nancy

14:00 CET/11:00 AM ET

Bordeaux finally won a game at home last weekend, which is pretty mind-blowing when you think about it. As poor as Bordeaux has been at home, Nancy has been worse on the road and are really looking to be a team that's going to have some difficulty avoiding a relegation fight. The lower part of the table is littered with clubs like Nancy, teams that play very well defensively and seek to highlight those strengths with their tactical approach but don't score nearly enough to be regularly competitive. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, there's a lesson in that.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

PSG vs. Auxerre

14:00 CET/11:00 AM ET

PSG is not in an especially good place right now, losers of their last three in all competitions, their last two in domestic competition and without a league win since October 29th. That's really a shame. Just a crying, crying shame.

Pick: PSG, 3-1

Lyon vs. Toulouse

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

Toulouse boast the best defense in the league, but that a team averaging a goal per game can be so high in the table is slightly annoying. Lyon continue plugging along, staying close enough to the top of the table that the Champions League and, at worst, Europa look easily attainable. This should be a close game, and an important one, but those aren't the same things as good.

Pick: Lyon, 1-0

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