Toulouse looks to stay perfect in French league

BY foxsports • September 9, 2010

Toulouse is looking to extend its perfect record in the French league with a fifth straight win when it hosts Saint-Etienne on Saturday.

Toulouse tops the standings with 12 points from the four opening matches, four clear of second-place Rennes, and looks headed for a much better finish than last season's disappointing 14th place.

"We're riding the momentum, we're showing an excellent mindset," Toulouse coach Alain Casanova said. "It feels great to rack up those wins after the tough season we went through."

The club has the league's best attack so far with eight goals scored despite the departure of France international Andre-Pierre Gignac to Marseille in the offseason.

Toulouse does not have the means to compete financially with the big clubs and has therefore built its success on a bold youth development policy.

Defender Cheikh M'Bengue and midfielders Etienne Capoue and Franck Tabanou are members of the France under-21 squad and have already been scouted by English clubs such as Tottenham and West Ham.

To fill the void left by Gignac up front, Toulouse signed Yannis Tafer on loan from Lyon and Federico Santander from Paraguayan club Guarani.

Both are just 19 years old. Tafer won the under-19 European Championship this summer with France while Santander played in last year's under-20 World Cup with Paraguay.

Toulouse made another smart deal by getting defender Adrian Gunino on loan from Argentine club Boca Juniors. Gunino is a Uruguay under-21 international.

Meanwhile, defending champion Marseille hopes to make up ground in the standings when it faces Monaco on Sunday.

Marseille has only four points, the same as Lyon, Bordeaux and Lille.

"It does not really reassure me to see that the big teams are in the same situation," Marseille coach Didier Deschamps said. "Toulouse has 12 points and Rennes eight. It's already a lot and it will take us quite a few matches to catch them."

Marseille will miss midfielder Edouard Cisse and winger Andre Ayew, who are both suspended. It will also play without forward Loic Remy, who picked up a groin injury in France's 1-0 loss to Belarus last week.

Monaco has six points and is one of six teams still undefeated after four rounds.

The key for Marseille's porous defense will be to contain Monaco's attack. Monaco signed Romania forward Daniel Niculae from Auxerre this summer and took Gabon forward Pierre Aubameyang on loan from AC Milan. Niculae and Aubameyang have scored two goals each.

Lille will be chasing its first win of the season at Lens on Saturday in what is known in France as the derby of the north. Lens and Lille are both located in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.

Lille had the most prolific attack last season but it is now struggling to score goals, finding the net only twice in four matches.

"After four rounds, we still haven't had a taste of victory," Lille skipper Rio Mavuba said. "The more time goes by, and the more the need for a win will become imperative. This derby can kickstart our season."

This match could be a golden opportunity for Lille since Lens currently has the worst defense in the league.

"We will have to take three points as quickly as possible," Lille midfielder Florent Balmont said. "A victory would do us some good both for our confidence and in the standings."

Also on Saturday it's: Auxerre vs. Caen, Lyon vs. Valenciennes, Montpellier vs. Nancy, Paris Saint-Germain vs. Arles-Avignon, and Rennes vs. Sochaux.

On Sunday it's: Brest vs. Lorient, and Nice vs. Bordeaux.

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