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Marseille fancies its chances

WITH Marseille at the top of the French league for the first time since last August, left back Taye Taiwo believes the club will win the title and end Lyon's seven years of domination.

Taiwo scored two goals on Sunday as Marseille beat Grenoble 4-1 and moved ahead of Lyon with seven games to play.

"Marseille will be champions," said Taiwo, who also plays for Nigeria. "We're right up there and there's no way we're going to give up this position between now and the end of the season. There are some big matches left."

Marseille, the only French club to have won the European Cup, won the last of its eight national titles in 1992. But the team has won four straight and leads the league with 61 points, one ahead of Lyon and two more than Bordeaux.

"Marseille is now inspiring a kind of fear, or at least some respect to its rivals," club president Pape Diouf said on Monday. "But we have to be careful to avoid falling in the ambient euphoria."

Marseille won the inaugural Champions League tournament in 1993 but was then demoted to France's second division because of a corruption scandal. Since then, the team has struggled to make the headlines. But under coach Eric Gerets, whose contract expires at the end of the season, Marseille has found a new consistency.

Lyon's hopes of winning a record eighth consecutive title were hurt on Sunday when it drew 2-2 at home against Monaco. Lyon captain Juninho said after the game that both Marseille and Bordeaux were now a threat.

"It's good for the championship. I'm an honest man and you've got to say that Marseille and Bordeaux have worked well these past two seasons," the midfielder said. "This year maybe they deserve to go all the way."

Lyon still has to play matches at Bordeaux, Marseille and Toulouse, and will play at home against Paris Saint-Germain.

"We have the most difficult run-in," Lyon coach Claud Puel said. "We're playing a lot of title rivals. But we can still do it and what matters is being top at the end of the season."

Marseille is also in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals. The team, which hosts Lyon at the Stade Velodrome on May 17 in what could be a crucial showdown, still hopes to reach the semifinals of Europe's second-tier club competition when it plays Shakhtar Donetsk at home tomorrow. The Ukrainian team won the first leg 2-0.

"If we hadn't beat Grenoble we'd have stood no chance against Donetsk," defender Taiwo said.


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