Ligue 1 2012, Week 20 Preview And Fixtures: Title Race Poised To Become A Chaotic, Spasming Mess

DORTMUND, GERMANY - DECEMBER 06: Morgan Amalfitano of Marseille celebrates after the UEFA Champions League group F match between Borussia Dortmund and Olympique de Marseille at Signal Iduna Park on December 6, 2011 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Marseille welcome Lille and Montpellier play host to Lyon as the traditional powers look to insert themselves into the quest for the Ligue 1 title in a very big way.

Ligue 1's title race has been somewhat hazy all season, but things could get absolutely, certifiably, pants-on-head crackers insane this weekend. Which is excellent news for those of us that absolutely adore chaos.

Saturday January 14th

Ajaccio vs. Auxerre

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

Auxerre continues to play respectably well while simultaneously managing to slide perilously down the table. Either they're in the midst of a particularly nasty spell of terrible luck or they're overachieving to an obscene degree. There isn't really any such confusion with Ajaccio; they're just flat-out awful.

Pick: Auxerre, 2-0

Nancy vs. Lorient

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

Nancy isn't nearly as bad as their record might indicate, and though they dwell in the relegation zone at present there is enough quality and discipline in the side to expect them to pull their way out of danger as the season wears on. Lorient is a side built upon the strategy of development, intermittent runs at Europe, selling off and reloading; currently they're in a reloading phase, but they're in a good position and the next run could be pretty interesting. All in all a game with some interesting implications for the relegation battle and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Pick: Lorient, 1-0

Bordeaux vs. Valenciennes

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

There are some dynamic, entertaining, underrated sides in Ligue 1. And then there are teams like these, who skeptics always seem to end up watching. These teams aren't even the competent kind of boring. It almost feels like spite.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Brest vs. Nice

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

HUR HUR HUR

Pick: Nice, 2-0

Caen vs. Rennes

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

Oh, Caen. You gave us all so much hope earlier in the going. It would have been so much fun! But alas, it was not meant to be. And the longer Rennes look like a competent side capable of making a real run at Europe, the more we have to assume Rennes are, um, a competent side capable of making a run at Europe.

*cough*

Pick: Rennes, 3-1

Dijon vs. Evian

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

As a promotional giveaway, spectators have their choice of the most useless mustard in the world or the worst-tasting flavored water ever conjured. (Yes, I took the easy route. Have you seen these teams play?)

Pick: Evian, 2-1

Montpellier vs. Lyon

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

As we've discussed before, Montpellier are the last-best-hope for there being anything good to come out of world football in the 2011-12 season. Lyon have closed to within takeover distance, and a win by the away side could make the chance of football bringing anyone with a soul even a smidgen of joy look fairly dire.

Don't blow this, Montpellier; the world is counting on you.

Pick: Draw, 3-3

PSG vs. Toulouse

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

PSG are the worst good team in the world. They're like a professional sports version of a middle school full of terrible athletes (not that PSG are terrible athletes, just go with it) that just happened to hit puberty before the kids at the other schools leading to the most unconvincing middle school athletics championship of all time. Unfortunately the middle schoolers get their comeuppance in high school, while PSG will eventually get way better and destroy everyone.

Pick: PSG, 3-1

St. Etienne vs. Sochaux

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

I don't know why, but I always forget how bad Sochaux is. And it's not like I don't watch them, or know intellectually that they're heavy relegation favorites; it's just that every time I look at the table I am a bit taken aback and the realization that "oh yeah, Sochaux are awwwwwful" comes flooding back. It's weird.

Pick: St. Etienne, 2-0

Sunday January 15th

Marseille vs. Lille

19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET

Montpellier-Lyon has a bigger immediate effect on the title picture, but this one is clearly a massive game as well. Lille continue to hang around, and though Marseille are still on the outside looking in thanks to a terrible start they've been arguably the best team in France for the better part of three months. This seems ominous for Lille, as a lopsided Marseille victory would be a pretty definitive symbol that L'OM is going to figure in the title race while Lille just hasn't been especially convincing at any point.

Pick: Marseille, 3-2

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