Parisian Duo Head the Way in National Title Race
While Paris Saint-Germain were sticking six goals past Lille OSC – to the delight of one member of the FFW team and the absolute despair of another – at the Parc des Princes on Saturday, in the north of the city, another Parisian team would go two better, outscoring the Ligue 1 leaders on the same day.
Championnat National’s Red Star Football Club were thrashing Pierre Womé’s shambolic FC de Chambly Thelle 8 (eight)-0 to go top of France’s third tier on an historic afternoon for Sebastien Robert’s men.
That demolition is the latest in a line of largely good results for the men from Saint-Ouen and as a result, with just four games remaining, they sit two points clear at the top of the third division.
Seven points separate Red Star from fourth place at present. The top three in Championnat National are promoted to Ligue 2 at the end of the season and the Stade Bauer-based team are potentially just two wins away from securing their return to the second tier for the first time since 1999.
Assuming they do go up, it will be a deserved achievement for Red Star. Since Robert took over as coach in October of 2013, the team has gradually been improving on the pitch and showing increasing ambition off it under the guidance of Sporting Director Steve Marlet.
Bringing in ex-Manchester United, Sunderland and Girondins de Bordeaux striker David Bellion last summer was a signal of Red Star’s intent. The former French under-21 international has scored seven times in the club’s quest for promotion so far, but it is Kévin Lefaix who leads the way with 16 (three of which were scored in the trouncing of Chambly – which was his third hat-trick of the campaign).
It will be no surprise to regular viewers of the Championnat National that Red Star are at the top end of the table at the business end of the season. They were well organised and motivated from the first week, have been very consistent in their form since October, and will be a good addition to Ligue 2.
Despite continual claims that there is just one team in Paris, Red Star are not the only side from the capital challenging for promotion to the second tier.
Paris FC are currently second in the table and trail their local rivals by just two points. Not only could both Parisian sides go up at the same time, there could realistically be a Parisian title duel all the way until the final game of the season.
With fewer recognisable faces than their neighbours, Coach Christophe Taine has done well to turn a mid-table side into title contenders.
Some smart summer business last year helped, with the likes of experienced defender Loïc Poujol arriving from FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. He was joined at the Stade Charléty by nine-goal attacker Richard Socrier from Angers, Chateauroux’s veteran midfielder Christian Kinkela, and Idriss Ech-Chergui from last season’s success-story-turned-tragedy Luzenac Ariège Pyrénées.
Paris FC host currently third-placed FC Bourg-Péronnas in their penultimate game of the season; a match that could go a long way towards deciding both teams’ fates this term.
The Rhône-Alpes outfit might be a familiar name to some who have followed FFW’s Coupe de France coverage over the past few seasons and Hervé Della Maggiore’s men have done well to get themselves into a position where promotion is a possibility after last term’s brush with relegation.
However, Bourg have dropped off in recent weeks and are now hanging onto their spot in the top three by just three points. Their trip to the capital on the penultimate weekend of the season will be of particular interest to fourth-place Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace.
However, The Alsatians can consider themselves fortunate to be in their current situation. Last season, the fallen giants of French football were relegated from the third tier after a dismal campaign and only Luzenac’s sad demise saved them. If one remotely positive thing has come from the farce that saw Luzenac cease to exist, it is that French football might get to see one of its biggest clubs take a sizeable step back towards the big time with promotion this term.
Three points behind Bourg at present, Strasbourg could pinch a place in the top three late on and be one of the three teams headed for Ligue 2 next season. Jacky Duguépéroux’s men started the campaign well and then tailed off towards Christmas and into the start of 2015. However, Le Racing have been in good form since January and the additions of Moroccan international Michaël Chrétien, formerly of AS Nancy-Lorraine, and the prolific Jérémy Blayac – on loan from Angers – have bolstered the squad.
If Strasbourg can win their remaining games, including a tough trip to face Vendée Luçon Football who are just one point behind them in the table, a Paris FC victory over Bourg could allow the Alsatians to sneak into the top three.
With Ligue 1’s title race still capable of going to the wire and generating plenty of intrigue, Championnat National’s promises to be even tighter.
Bourg, Strasbourg or even Luçon could still feasibly win the title and the possibility of Red Star and Paris FC securing promotion and linking up with Parisian suburb-based US Créteil-Lusitanos in Ligue 2 is also a mouth-watering prospect for the capital city.
Considering Championnat National’s unpredictable nature, there is likely to be at least one significant twist left in this tale.