Lyon, Bordeaux & Paris St. Germain - The Contrasting Faces Of French Football

With both Lyon and Bordeaux reaching the quarter finals of the Champions league, and then drawing each other, French football is guaranteed a semi-finalist for the first time since Monaco reached the final in the 2003-04 season. Bordeaux last season broke the dominance of Lyon, who despite losing several big stars, are still in the hunt for both domestic and European honours.

The strength of the French league can also be demonstrated by the fact that six sides are in the race for the Liga 1 title this year, making it the most exciting and open competition out of any of Europe’s major leagues. Bordeaux manager Laurent Blanc believes this is proof that the French clubs are starting to bridge the gap left by the defection of their major players to European leagues over the past 20 years, and on this evidence, he has a point.

The winners of the all French tie will face the victors of the Manchester United v Bayern Munich tie, and the headline writers will be salivating if Blanc gets to pit his managerial wits against Sir Alex. There are many who see Blanc as the successor to Ferguson's throne, having developed a managerial style not dissimilar to that of his mentor. It's hard to find negatives in his still relatively fledgling career, and his attainment in winning the league, reaching the latter stages of the Champions League, and managing to hang on to the best players he has, bodes well for future success.

So while everything on the pitch is looking good across the channel, it’s sad to say that there are still major problems off it. A Paris St. Germain fan lost his battle for life after being injured in violence after the club lost to Marseille at the end of February. PSG have banned their fans from going to away games for the foreseeable future, and the French Sports Minister has stated that the club's very survival could be at stake.

PSG's game at Nice this weekend was played behind closed doors, this time because of Nice’s fans going on the rampage during their derby defeat with Monaco. This has obviously been condemned, but the rise of the right in French society is seen to be the catalyst for the re-emergence of these deep routed rivalries.

French football then, could be at the crossroads. Hopefully the talking will be done on the pitch, and not in the stands and outside the stadiums by an element which seems intent on undermining their footballing successes.

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