PARIS (AP) — A small city best known for making mustard is now on a hot streak in the French league.
Dijon, in eastern France with about 150,000 inhabitants, is level at the top with defending champion Paris Saint-Germain.
Both have won the opening three games with an identical goal difference but the similarities end there.
Dijon started producing mustard in the 1850s and it’s now a worldwide product. But the tiny soccer club was founded in 1998 and it has never won a trophy.
PSG has won five of the last seven French titles since cash-rich Qatari investors QSI took over in 2011, and has ambitions of winning the Champions League.
PSG’s star-studded attack of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani cost close to $550 million, while Dijon’s forward line is led by unheralded Julio Tavares.
He arrived in France from the Cap Verde Islands as a young boy, only to become a professional player at the late age of 24.
Before then, Tavares combined low-level amateur soccer with his love of the French game petanque (or boules). After once filling in as an emergency goalkeeper for an injured teammate, he was eventually spotted as a striker and his career slowly took off.
PSG’s Mbappe is only 19, yet he has already won the World Cup with France and is in line to become soccer’s next superstar.
Tavares’ only claim to fame is being Dijon’s all-time leading scorer with 70 goals — about 100 less than Cavani’s PSG record — but he is making a name for himself now at age 29. He is club captain and Ligue 1’s equal top-scorer so far this season with three goals.
Dijon’s success is linked to its style of play: adventurous, attacking football home and away. Dijon crushed Nice 4-0 on its own pitch on Saturday.
Coach Olivier Dall’Oglio’s side takes risks and backs that up with a slick passing game.
Next for Dijon is lowly Caen at home on Saturday.
Patrick Vieira dominated as a midfielder for France and Arsenal with his robust, all-action style. But he’s up against it early into his coaching career in France with Nice.
The southern side has one point from three matches and Vieira’s players are struggling.
Nice sold striker Alassane Plea during the offseason but kept hold of Mario Balotelli, who said Vieira persuaded him to stay.
The Italy striker missed the first three games of the season because of suspension, and this impacted on Vieira. Without a recognized center forward, Vieira had to improvise tactically in order to compensate.
Vieira desperately needs Balotelli’s goals, starting at Lyon on Friday.
MBAPPE VS. NEYMAR
Neymar and Mbappe have three league goals each so far — and it could become a battle between them to finish as league top scorer.
Neymar’s career best in a league is 24, for Barcelona in 2015-16. He would have almost certainly beaten that with PSG last season because he was on 19 goals when he broke a bone in his foot with three months left to play.
Mbappe’s best tally is 15 when he helped Monaco to win the league title in 2016-17. Last season he netted 13 goals for PSG but often played in a wide role.
Mbappe is keen to play at center forward, where he can better use his incredible pace and direct running.
It’s a headache for coach Thomas Tuchel, but nothing has stopped Mbappe’s meteoric rise.
Playing him in his strongest position seems inevitable, even if it doesn’t suit Cavani or Neymar.
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Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire