Lyon determined to decimate league rivals

November 27, 2006

LYON, France, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon look far too strong for the rest of Ligue 1 and have no intention of slowing down.

'We will continue to increase our lead,' France midfielder Florent Malouda warned after scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory over Auxerre on Sunday that sent the five-times champions 14 points clear.

'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 for years, Lyon are trying the become the first side from a major European league to win six titles in succession.

Sunday's win means they are already certain of reaching the halfway stage of the league season in the lead whatever happens in the four games left before the winter break.

Lyon, who have 40 points from a maximum 45 after 15 games , are 14 points ahead Lille, Racing Lens and Sochaux.

What Lyon really want, however, is to make an impact in Europe after exiting the Champions League in the quarter-finals the last three seasons.

They have suggested they could do that as well, making sure with a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Tuesday that they will win their Champions League group.

As far as the league is concerned, they have already won it, says Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez.

'Lyon will be champions,' Fernandez told reporters. 'They are in a league of their own. You have Lyon on one side and on the other side you have seven to eight clubs fighting to finish second or third.

'The difference with last season is that now, they even win when they are not that well. There's always a free kick or a flash of individual brilliance to put them ahead.'

Another difference is their in-depth strength. Such valued players as France defender Eric Abidal, Portugal midfielder Tiago and Brazil forward Fred were all sidelined on Sunday but that did not stop Lyon from winning.

'We have a group of exceptional competitors,' said Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas.

Coach Gerard Houllier remains cautious and keeps reminding everyone that Lyon have won nothing yet but he can only be confident.

'One thing for sure, if we play as well in the second half of the season as we did in the first, we will win the title,' he said.