The third tier in France is heating up with five teams vying for the two promotion spots to Ligue 2, and a fierce battle to avoid relegation for well-established clubs like Nancy and Le Mans. This season, there are only two promotion spots – no play-offs – and six (yes, six) relegations places to the National 2 (fourth tier).
5 games left & 5 clubs separated by four points
Martigues, Dunkerque, Concarneau, Red Star, and Versailles are all within four points of each other fighting to secure the promotion spots in the Championnat National. Martigues, who have been leading for a month, have a chance to seal their promotion fate as they face three of their closest rivals in the coming weeks. However, all five teams have their sights set on finishing in the top two spots.
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As the last five fixtures play out, Martigues are the side with their destiny most firmly in their own hands. They continue what has been an exceptional season following promotion from the fourth tier last season. Having not lost since March, the side from the suburbs of Marseille face Dunkerque, Concarneau, and Versailles in their final games.
Habib Beye’s Red Star FC, who sit in fourth place, have a more favourable run-in, but their hopes of promotion were dented after losing to two promotion rivals in quick succession. The side from the Paris suburbs quickly reacted with a 4-1 win away to Nancy last Monday.
Breton side Concarneau are currently tied on points with Martigues and northerners Dunkerque, but they will be regretting a administrative blunder earlier in the season when they fielded a suspended player, resulting in a loss on a technicality and a points deduction. However, they are still in the running for promotion and are in good form coming into the last run of fixtures.
Dunkerque has been on a historic winning streak since their manager Mathieu Chabart joined the club with seven consecutive victories, a record in French football this season that propelled them from seventh place to promotion hopefuls. Their winning run saw a win over promotion rivals Red Star earlier this April – they are certainly the team with the most momentum.
Versailles are a little further behind despite their bold spending and intentions to take the Championnat National by storm at the start of the season. They won against Villefranche last Friday after four winless games against teams they should have beaten. They are still within four points of the top three teams, so anything is possible. However, if they do not finish in the top two spots, they will know that they miss out on a glorious chance under Brazilian manager Cris – especially with the amount of spending and worrying debt that the club will find itself in next season.
What do other National clubs think?
When asked about the promotion race by Le Parisien, other National teams had their say and voted for the clubs they think will gain promotion to Ligue 2 by the end of the season. The newspaper from the capital asked 13 representatives from other clubs in the league to give their votes in who they think will win the tightest promotion race the third tier has seen.
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Dunkerque came out on top with eight votes, followed by Martigues with seven, Concarneau with six, Red Star with five, and Versailles with none. When asked on their explanations for voting, teams still see Red Star as a strong contender due to their attacking potential and a more manageable schedule. Les Audoniens face Bastia-Borgo tonight behind closed doors at Stade Bauer, before a trip to Versailles awaits them next weekend in a Parisian region derby.
When it came to Versailles, the other teams felt that Les Bleus were too “individualistic” and have failed to impress despite their spending in the summer. Meanwhile, those that didn’t hail from Paris chose Dunkerque as the likeliest due to Mathieu Chabart’s historic run with the club and a sense of the feeling of momentum associated.
Photo Credit: Bazil Fleury – @icietailleurs55 on Instagram.
GFFN | George Boxall