Rampant Marseille close in on French double

PARIS - Ten days ago, the top three in France's Ligue 1 were level on points and there were only three points separating sixth-placed Lille from the leaders.

The picture has changed drastically now with Olympique Marseille five points clear of second-placed Auxerre with six games left.

NEWS: Marseille go five clear

A seemingly easy task in their next outing is next for Marseille with an away game at strugglers Boulogne on Saturday.

After five successive victories, Marseille are looking championship material as they close in on their first title since 1992 but they are taking nothing for granted.

"We are five points clear but there are six matches left and we still have to go to Lille and Auxerre," Marseille captain Mamadou Niang told reporters after a 1-0 win at Sochaux on Wednesday. "It will be tough until the very end."

While Marseille shone, others, notably Olympique Lyon, Auxerre and Montpellier, who shared the lead 10 days ago, failed to keep up with the pace set by the former European champions.

Champions Girondins Bordeaux have collapsed, meanwhile, leaking goals and losing three games in a row to drop nine points off the pace.

Bordeaux, at home to Lyon in one of the pick of this weekend's games on Saturday, still have a game in hand but a more realistic goal is to secure a place in Europe.

Marseille are buzzing and with the league's top striker in Senegal striker Niang and Argentine playmaker Lucho Gonzalez in fine form, they look unstoppable.

LUCHO INFLUENCE

Lucho, who needed time to adapt after joining from Porto at the end of last season, set up all his side's goals with a dazzling display in a 4-1 win over Nice last weekend.

Another reason to bet on Marseille is that they can win in style, which they did against Nice and in 3-0 home win over Sochaux last week, but not only.

Against Sochaux again in midweek, they showed character to pick the points with a late goal by defender Stephane Mbia.

Marseille have already boosted the club's morale by lifting their first trophy in 17 years with a 3-1 win over Bordeaux in the French League Cup final last month.

Didier Deschamps, Marseille captain when they won the Champions League in 1993 and now their coach, is the inspiration behind the renaissance of the team from the soccer-mad Mediterranean port city.

The former France midfielder and captain also refuses to count his chickens.

"We still need to face some contenders and there are 18 points to play for," he told reporters. "Let's keep calm."

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