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Lyon 'in a league of their own'

Published: Tuesday 28 November 2006, 17.39CET
Olympique Lyonnais look far too strong for the rest of Ligue 1 and have no intention of slowing down, but their real motivation is the UEFA Champions League.

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Published: Tuesday 28 November 2006, 17.39CET

Lyon 'in a league of their own'

Olympique Lyonnais look far too strong for the rest of Ligue 1 and have no intention of slowing down, but their real motivation is the UEFA Champions League.
Olympique Lyonnais look far too strong for the rest of Ligue 1 and have no intention of slowing down. "We will continue to increase our lead," said France midfielder Florent Malouda after scoring the only goal against AJ Auxerre on Sunday which sent the five-time champions 14 points clear of LOSC Lille Métropole, RC Lens and FC Sochaux-Montbéliard.

Record chasing
"We want to win everything this season and we want our lead in the league to be as huge as possible. That will boost our confidence for the other competitions," he added. In a class of their own in France, Lyon are trying to become the first side from a major European league to win six titles in succession. Sunday's victory means Lyon, with 40 points from 15 matches, are certain of reaching the halfway stage of the Ligue 1 campaign in pole position, whatever happens in the four games before the winter break.

European hopes
What Lyon really want, however, is to make an impact in Europe after exiting the UEFA Champions League in the quarter-finals for three seasons running. They have suggested they could do that, winning Group E ahead of Real Madrid CF after drawing 2-2 in Spain last week.

'Champions'
As far as Ligue 1 is concerned, they have already won it according to Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez. "Lyon will be champions," he said. "They are in a league of their own. You have Lyon on one side, and on the other you have seven or eight clubs fighting to finish second or third. The difference with last season is that they even win when they are not playing well. There's always a free-kick or a flash of individual brilliance to put them ahead."

Strength
Another difference is their strength-in-depth. Such valued players as France defender Eric Abidal, Portugal midfielder Tiago and Brazil forward Fred were sidelined on Sunday but that did not stop Lyon prevailing. "We have a group of exceptional competitors," said Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas. Coach Gérard Houllier remains cautious and keeps reminding everyone that Lyon have won nothing yet - though he must be confident. "One thing is for sure, if we play as well in the second half of the season as we have in the first, we will win the title," he said.

Last updated: 29/11/06 9.23CET

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