Although most clubs have already started playing preseason friendlies, they are only now starting in earnest since the World Cup is over. Players called up to their national teams will slowly be drifting back and adjusting back to the day to day reality of their clubs.
Overshadowing this happy time is the mercato. Lyon will undoubtedly lose some players but may also gain a few as well. No one knows just yet, not even Bruno Génésio, who wakes up every morning not knowing which of his players will actually be at training.
July 21, 2018
Stade Pierre Rajon, Bourgoin-Jallieu
3 PM Eastern Time (21:00 CET, 20:00 GMT)
For those of you who don’t follow the Premier League, Fulham has been on quite the roller coaster. They were promoted to the top flight in 2001, where they were solid mid-table performers. Some of you may recall that several US national team members played there. Fulham’s best ever finish was in 2009, when they reached 7th place. The following year, they were finalists in the UEFA Europa League.
Unfortunately, things went downhill from there, and at the end of 2014, they were relegated to the second division, which is where they struggled for the next four years. Midway through the drama, they recruited a new manager in Slaviša Jokanović, who instilled a more workman-like ethic in how the team played. After a rather protracted battle last season, they finally achieved promotion to the Premier League.
Fulham are back and are serious. So serious that they splashed €30m on Nice’s Jean Michaël Seri (a club record). While they were at the store, they also picked up Nice’s Maxime Le Marchand for another €5m. That’s not chump change. And they aren’t finished either – there’s still a few players on their shopping list. They’ve also got a solid midfield that, while lacking in big names, works together cohesively. Their star asset is Ryan Sessegnon, a homegrown academy graduate who is only 18 years old. But despite his age, he was voted the best player in the 2018 English Championship.
Fulham are determined to make a splash in their top flight re-entry, so they’ve packed in several friendlies in their pre-season training. They have already played 3 of them, compared to Lyon’s one, so they will be in better match shape. So far, they’ve won 4-2 against Crawley Town, drawn 0-0 against Reading, and lost 0-3 to Fenerbahce. Since these are all friendlies, I wouldn’t read to much into their results.
In terms of venue, in case you were wondering why the match is being held in a stadium so tiny that a sneeze would blow it away, neither clubs expect more than 6,000 supporters. The expense of using Parc OL isn’t worth it for a small friendly. Instead, Lyon will be playing the game in a nearby town. The stadium is occupied by FC Bourgoin-Jallieu, an adorable team in the France 5th division. A few years go, OL signed a training partnership to further foster young players. To give you an idea of how small the club is, Lyon’s B squad plays one division above them.
By hosting this match, FCBJ stand to make a profit around €10,000, which is a huge sum for them. Last year, after hosting another Lyon friendly (against Ajax), FCBJ had a 10% gain in sponsorship and garnered more attention by having two big clubs play in their venue.
So forgive the small space – it’s for a good cause!
Génésio has made it clear that he sees Lyon’s preseason as an opportunity for the club to get into the Champions League mindset. Friendlies are a great opportunity to see how bench players assert themselves on the pitch, give new players a chance to adjust, and get the team back into a more competitive mindset. The club will be playing in seven preseason friendlies against other European teams. One has already taken place – Lyon played Swiss club FC Sion, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
During stretches of their season, Lyon will need to play every three days, which means a higher level of fitness, mental composure, and most importantly, a reliable bench. Génésio is determined to give everyone playing time, and with likely departures on the horizon, he’ll need to work out a new team composition.
Le groupe lyonnais: Gorgelin, Racioppi, Rafael, Dubois, Morel, Marcelo, Solet, Tete, Mendy, Martins-Pereira, Aouar, Caqueret, Ndombele, Tousart, Ferri, Diop, Ndiaye, Memphis, Traoré, Cornet, Mariano, Terrier.
Nabil Fekir just returned to Lyon (I heard he traveled to Russia?), so it’s unlikely that he will be called up for this match. Anthony Lopes is also on post-World Cup vacation. Mariano and Houssem Aouar, who sat out against Sion, are back on team sheet. Yassin Fekir, who was included in the last friendly, is not on the list this time.
Interestingly, Marçal and Memphis Depay were not included. For the latter, given his late start to training (🙄), he’s apparently not up to match fitness. For Marçal, it could be something banal like hemorroids, but there’s also been some transfer talk…
It’s a friendly. Who the eff knows. Every player will likely play, and it will undoubtedly look like a convoluted game of musical chairs.
We should see more of Mathieu Gorgelin, who desperately needs more practice since Anthony Lopes will be suspended for the first two league games. OL Newbies Léo Dubois, Martin Terrier, and Oumar Solet are expected to play. Génésio will also be calling up players from Lyon’s B team to give them a chance to shine. They include Christopher Martins Pereira (returned from loan), Maxence Caqueret, and Ousseynou Ndiaye. Before you laugh, think of all the players that have come up from Lyon’s B team.
Yeah, that’s right. The next Zidane is probably sitting on the B team bench, picking his nose and playing Fortnight when no one’s looking.
Canal+ will be broadcasting this game in France. For those of you who don’t get that channel, there will likely be several streams available. I will try to post a few of them here if I get the chance.
I expect a narrow win for OL. Génésio is less interested in winning than he is in getting all his players adequate playing time. The uncertain team dynamics will make it difficult for Lyon to dominate play, even against a weaker opponent. I’m going to close my eyes and say 3-2.