Ligue 1: Surprise trio setting early season pace

PARIS - Toulouse, Stade Rennes and Montpellier are enjoying a surprising view from the top of Ligue 1 four games into the season despite selling key players.

Leaders Toulouse have a perfect record so far despite France striker Andre-Pierre Gignac joining Olympique Marseille during the transfer window.

They host St Etienne on Saturday and former coach Elie Baup, now a consultant for French TV channel Canal Plus, believes they can have a good campaign.

"I think they can finish in the top five or top six," Baup told Toulouse's website.

Second-placed Stade Rennes, who sold Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan to English Premier League club Sunderland, take on fourth-placed Sochaux on Saturday looking for more improvement.

"We need to play better. We also have to keep our feet on the ground because we've been playing with five players who are under 21," coach Frederic Antonetti told his club's website.

Colombian Victor Hugo Montano has hit two league goals for Rennes since joining the Brittany side from Montpellier in the summer.

Montpellier, third with eight points like Rennes, host Nancy on Saturday.

The leading trio have been benefiting from the big guns' failure to find their stride so far.

Champions Marseille have only picked up four points in the wake of a tumultuous close season. Forward Hatem Ben Arfa went on strike in an attempt to join Newcastle United, which he eventually did and striker Mamadou Niang left for Fenerbahce.

France strikers Loic Remy and Andre-Pierre Gignac have arrived at the Stade Velodrome, but they may need a bit of time to adapt.

"We must do everything we can to incorporate them as quickly as possible," OM playmaker Lucho Gonzalez of Argentina told the club's website.

Gignac scored in a 1-1 friendly against AC Ajaccio last week and is expected to start on Sunday when Marseille host Monaco.

Lyon, second last season, also have only four points and have been hit by a series of injuries with Cesar Delgado, Cris and Michel Bastos sidelined with muscle problems.

"Our start to the season is bad. It's not enough. We lack conviction, agressiveness", coach Claude Puel told Lyon's website.

Lyon host Valenciennes on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Paris Saint-Germain, also on four points, take on promoted Arles-Avignon who have lost their four first games.

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