Grenoble chief: Miracle escape? No, we're doomed

PARIS - Grenoble can still cheat Ligue 1 relegation with seven matches left but the man responsible for the day-to-day running of the club has written his team off as no hopers for survival and is already planning for next season.

Anything less than a win at Toulouse on Saturday combined with victory for St Etienne at Sochaux will doom Grenoble to the drop.

Club executive officer Pierre Wantiez, who is the Japanese owners' front man at the French Alps club, was not holding out any hope on Thursday.

Asked by Reuters to sum up Grenoble's season, Wantiez said simply: "Depressing."

"Our fate is already sealed. I'm not really a believer and I don't know if someone believes we will stay in Ligue 1 but I don't," he said.

"We are disappointed and bitter ... and I think our team have not been repaid for their efforts but we are not competing in figure skating with performance scores, this is arithmetic with points you grab or not," Wantiez added.

The target for the club, on 15 points with just three wins from 31 matches, is to avoid breaking the record for the lowest number of points by a Ligue 1 club, set by Metz in the 1988-89 season with 17.

"I don't want Grenoble to end the season with the lowest number of points ever. We don't want to wear that albatross on our shoulder after we've already lost our first 11 games of the season," Wantiez said.

"The only thing that matters to me now is to prepare for next season and to leave Ligue 1 with our heads held high and with dignity."

Worse could follow for Grenoble, whose Japanese owners face financial problems.

The club are waiting to hear whether the French Professional League will demote them to National, the equivalent of the third division, because of their budget problems.

If the season ended now, Le Mans and Boulogne, second and third from bottom in the 20-strong table, would also be relegated and there are few signs they can escape that fate.


Le Mans are 11 points behind St Etienne, who are just above the relegation zone in 17th, and host third-placed Montpellier on Saturday.

Boulogne, who trail St Etienne by eight points, will be in action at the same time, away to fellow strugglers Racing Lens.

There is far more uncertainty at the other end of the table with the closes title race in years.

Marseille went two points clear at the top with a 3-0 home win against Sochaux on Wednesday but only five points separate the top six teams.

Sixth-placed Lille could find themselves out of contention though if they lose at in-form Olympique Lyon on Sunday.

Lyon went through to the Champions League semi-finals when they knocked out French champions Girondins Bordeaux on Wednesday.

They are second ahead of Montpellier and Auxerre, who play at Nancy on Sunday, on goal difference.

Leaders Marseille, who were last crowned champions in 1992, Have 59 points, with one game in han