Challengers left stranded in Lyon's wake

October 2, 2008

PARIS, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon's rivals are already sporting an air of weary resignation after the seven-times champions made their best start to the season since their Ligue 1 title glut started.

Seeking an eighth consecutive title, Olympique Lyon travel to Stade Rennes on Sunday (1500) oozing confidence.

Lyon are enjoying their best start to a season with 19 points from seven matches and the second-placed team, surprise package Toulouse, are already five points back.

It is the furthest they have been ahead at this stage of the season since their winning run started in 2002.

"We don't look behind us too much but it's true that it's a good start," said France striker Karim Benzema, the league's top scorer with 20 goals last season, who has netted six already in the current campaign.

"Whether at Gerland or away, we play all our matches to win," he told reporters.

Having another new coach in Claude Puel and plenty of injury worries has not stopped Lyon from continuing to destroy all opposition.

"Their spirit is just amazing," said Nancy goalkeeper Gennaro Bracigliano, whose side lost 2-1 to the champions last weekend.

"They have a will to win which is unbelievable," he told reporters.

"They fight for every ball and challenge you physically for 90 minutes. On top of that they have quality everywhere and players capable of making a difference at any time. All that makes resisting them very complicated."

Olympique Marseille, regarded by many as Lyon's most dangerous rivals, are in third, six points off the pace, before welcoming Caen on Saturday (1700).

Girondins Bordeaux, who finished runners-up last season after challenging Lyon until the final weekend, are even further back, eight points adrift in seventh place before visiting Lorient on Saturday (1700).

Toulouse, who have not won a significant title since 1957, will host Auxerre.

"Being second now means nothing but if we beat Auxerre, we will be allowed to stay we've had a good start to the season," Toulouse coach Alain Casanova told reporters.