PARIS, Nov 28 (Reuters) - When the season started, few would have put money on Nancy emerging as the side most likely to stop Olympique Lyon from claiming yet another Ligue 1 crown.
With the campaign nearly halfway through, however, the easterners have turned out to be just that, despite limited means and a squad with no big names.
Nancy, who will visit sixth-placed Le Mans on Saturday, are three points behind Lyon and have a game in hand.
Third-placed Girondins Bordeaux have dropped nine points back while Olympique Marseille, widely regarded prior to the season as Lyon's most dangerous rivals for the title, are a poor 14th, 17 points off the pace.
Nancy have lost just one match so far. Lyon, chasing a seventh successive title and entertaining Racing Strasbourg on Sunday, have already lost three.
'It's amazing but we're staying humble and we just concentrate on our next match,' Nancy midfielder Pascal Berenguer told France Football magazine.
'We realise things can change very fast,' he added.
Nancy, famous for being the first club Michel Platini played for, had not won a trophy in 28 years when they lifted the French League Cup last year.
In the summer they did not buy a single player, deciding to rely on the same squad as last season.
Coach Pablo Correa does not yet have the diploma needed to get a coaching licence in France.
That means he has to have an assistant with a licence, namely Paul Fischer, who deputises when Correa has to undergo sessions ahead of his examination.
'The coach (Correa) tells us we can still improve,' Berenguer said. 'We're not getting carried away but there's no reason why we should stop getting good results. Just behind Lyon is a good place to be.'
Bordeaux, who were hammered 5-0 at Caen after having two players sent off last weekend, will welcome Toulouse on Sunday.
Paris St Germain, third from bottom and still without a home win this season, will take nothing for granted when they host Caen at Parc des Princes on Saturday.