Introducing a new series on Just Football now – Tales from Tier Two, in which we will be taking a look at how the season is unfolding for the promotion chasing teams around tier two of Europe’s major leagues. Brought to you in partnership with the excellent @tiertwofooty. First up, France’s Ligue 2 and the three teams chasing the big league and a place alongside PSG, Marseille, Lyon and co.
Ligue 2 – France:
1) Clermont Foot
In a similar vein to last year only 8 points separate the top half of Ligue 2 as the race for the three promotion places to the top table of French football looks set to go to the wire once more.
Going into the winter break Clermont held top spot on 34 points, 1 point ahead of Reims and 4 clear of Bastia & Sedan. As the second half of the season gets underway the comings and goings in the January transfer window could be pivotal in determining how the table shapes up come May.
Clermont, under the guidance of Michel Der Zakarian finished last season well & added quality to the squad in the summer but their rise to the summit of Ligue 2 has still been a surprise to most people away from the Stade Gabriel Montpied.
Der Zakarian spent his entire playing career at Ligue 2 sides (Montpellier & Nantes) and until 2009 his managerial career was spent at the same 2 clubs. The Franco-Armenian has now firmly established his style at Clermont and if they can continue their strong form away from home they should see Ligue 1 football next season.
The key to success at Clermont is held in midfield. Many clubs have cast a keen eye on Romain Alessandrini and keeping hold of the 22 year old Marseille born man is the paramount aim. Alongside him Eugene Ekobo, Yacouba Sylla & Nicolas Bayod provide the platform to allow Alessandrini to get forward and help out the front two.
The wasn’t a great deal of transfer activity in the summer but what business was conducted was shrewd, the signing of striker Jean Francois Riviere from Ajaccio particularly so. Riviere is a powerful forward that hit 12 goals last season as Ajaccio claimed an unlikely promotion, including 2 goals in the win at Nimes that sealed the deal. Riviere has proved a hit at Clermont and has struck 10 goals in 17 games so far. 24 year old forward Romain Armand also joined in the summer from Montpellier and although he has only found the net twice he has helped compliment Riviere.
February looks to be a vital month for Clermont. The transfer window will be shut and if Der Zakarian can keep hold of the likes of Alessandrini and defender Damien Perrinelle then promotion can definitely be on the cards. Clermont will more than likely have to fend of suitors for Der Zakarian but has he has shown throughout his career that loyalty is high on his priorities.
Points clear of promotion chasers: 4 points clear of Sedan in 4th (top 3 promoted automatically)
Will last the pace or tire in the race?: Last the pace – Riviere will help shoot them into Ligue 1
Key Man: Romain Alessandrini attracted attention from clubs in France & abroad in the summer and is likely to do so in January.
Next up: Stade de Reims