Ligue 1 Preview, Week 4: Favorites Battle Early-Season Upstarts

CHAMBON, FRANCE - JULY 23: Eden Hazard of Lille in action during the pre-season friendly match between Lille and Saint Etienne on July 23, 2011 in Chambon sur Lignon, France. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Ligue 1's strongest teams have gotten off to a bit of a sputtering start this season. This weekend they'll have a chance to reassert their dominance.

There are some pretty compelling matchups this weekend pitting pre-season title contenders against clubs of slightly lesser esteem that have gotten off to fast starts. And though it's still absurdly early, the points gained or dropped in these games will in fact count the same as those from week 38. Are Montpellier and Toulouse for real? Is this the week PSG manage to give an opponent a proper waxing? Will Valenciennes' supporters make it through an entire 90 minutes without falling asleep? We'll find out this weekend! Maybe.

Saturday

Auxerre vs. AC Ajaccio

Time: 17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

Both of these teams are 0-2-1 with a -2 goal differential in their first three games. They also both have names that start with 'A' that are seven letters long, assuming you don't count the 'AC' and 'AJ'. This one has stalemate written all over it.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

Évian TG vs. Dijon

Time: 17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

This was one of the more important fixtures in Ligue 2 last season and though it's early, the result may well have huge ramifications on Ligue 1's relegation battle this year. They should call it the Who Gets To Be On TV When They Play PSG Derby.

Pick: Évian, 3-1

Lorient vs. Nancy

Time: 17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

It's tempting to consider Lorient the favorites here as they are, on paper, the stronger team but they also lost by two goals to Dijon so they may also be the worst team in the history of Ligue 1.

Pick: Lorient, 2-1

Nice vs. Brest

Time: 17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

This promises to be a titillating affair.

Pick: Brest, 3-1

Valenciennes vs. Bordeaux

Time: 17:00 CET/1:00 PM ET

I know it's only been one game and sample size and so forth and so on but Valenciennes has scored one goal and somehow managed to get shut out by Caen. That is trying-to-pick-up-girls-while-wearing-an-alcohol-monitoring-bracelet level futility.

Pick: Bordeaux, 2-0

Lyon vs. Montpellier

Time: 19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

The reason the beginning of the season is adorable is that Montpellier is in first place.

Pick: Lyon, 3-2

Sunday

Sochaux vs. St. Etienne

Time: 15:00 CET/11:00 AM ET

St. Etienne have scored three goals and allowed only one so far this year, and they're playing away from home against a pretty dynamic Sochaux team. There's the possibility this ends up being a thrilling tactical battle but there's an even greater possibility that St. Etienne are going to play an 8-2-0.

Pick: Sochaux, 1-0

Stade Rennes vs. Caen

Time: 15:00 CET/11:00 AM ET

Caen's title hopes took a crushing blow last weekend as they fell out of the Champions League places for the first time all season.Still, there's time left to make another run at the top of the table. Can they get things back on track this week?

Pick: Stade Rennes, 3-1

Toulouse vs. PSG

Time: 15:00 CET/11:00 AM ET

PSG managed to pick up their first win of the year against Valenciennes last week, but the positive vibes may not last long as Toulouse are playing excellent football early on in the season. Solution: pay them to throw the game. That's legal as long as there's not gambling involved, right?

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Lille vs. Marseille

Time: 19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

How amazing would it be if Marseille went both undefeated and winless? I've always wanted to see that happen.

Pick: Lille, 2-1

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