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Many expected Reims to struggle after comfortably avoiding relegation in the 2012-13 campaign.
However, rather than suffering from the dreaded "second-season syndrome," Hubert Fournier's men have improved and look likely to go into the winter break inside the top half.
Reims' home performances have been the key to their relative success. The club have lost only twice at the Stade Auguste Bonal and should be able to ensure their top-flight status for another year if they are able to carry their form into the second half of the season.
Saint-Etienne are two places above Reims. While their showings have not been as strong as those that saw them finish narrowly outside the Champions League places in the previous campaign, Christophe Galtier's side are still in a strong position to make a run at a return to the Europa League.
Lorient appeared to be on their way to a fight against the drop following their 4-0 loss to PSG back at the beginning of November. However, the Brittany club have gone six league games without defeat since that game.
Striker Vincent Aboubakar has played a pivotal role in their last five consecutive wins—netting five goals—and manager Christian Gourcuff will be hoping the Cameroon international can keep scoring as his side aim to notch further wins in the new year.
The final B grade goes to Lorient's Brittany rivals Guingamp, who, much like Nantes, have subverted expectations of a battle against the drop.
Jocelyn Gourvennec's outfit are 12 points clear of the relegation zone, but they cannot afford to be complacent over their Ligue 1 future, particularly after three league games without a win.