It’s been a tough few months for Les Canaris. The dreadful start to their season is shocking for a team who can usually be counted on for their reliable, midtable performances. Most of the news out of Brittany these days revolves on their manager, Miguel Cardoso, and Waldemar Kita, president of Nantes and one of Ligue 1’s most despised supervillains.
However, while they might be in 19th place, they’re only one point from 18th placed Monaco. Misery loves company, right? Especially when said company ended last season in second place and is a perennial Champions League participant.
Saturday, September 29th, 2018
Parc OL, Lyon
2 PM EST (20:00 CST, 19:00 UST)
Match previews are usually more player focused, but for this game, the drama is centered around Cardoso. He was hired only last June, so it’s only been three months with him in charge. A relative unknown, he’s one of the rare few managers who were never players. He worked his way up as an assistant manager in several clubs clubs before landing the managing gig at Rio Ave FC, and he received enough rave reviews that he caught the eyes of Kita.
Cardoso was hired to bring the attractive, attacking style of play South Americans are known for. His appointment was greeted with much anticipation, as a fresh face in the French footballing community is a rare thing, and he didn’t have the baggage that follow around all the others. However, Cardoso didn’t receive the support he needed from his club (or money for transfers). Additionally, three months is too short a time for a new coach to impose himself and implement a new style of play.
Unfortunately, Nantes has decided to pull the plug and has already informed Cardoso that the match against Lyon will be his last one. They’ve already found his replacement, Vahid Halilhodžić, who is well known to most Ligue 1 followers as he’s managed several French teams, including PSG in their pre-QSI days.
Yes, you read that right. Nantes are firing Cardoso, but they’re making him manage one more match. No confirmation as to why – maybe it’s contractual, maybe Cardoso pushed to stay an extra day – but my guess is that Kita thinks Nantes will lose against Lyon no matter what, and they don’t want Halilhodžić to start out his tenure with what may be a humiliating loss.
Very douchy of Kita, but no one would be surprised.
Also of note is that Léo Dubois signed last January on a free transfer from Nantes. He played out the rest of their last season, including their home match against Lyon, a game that generated a lot of controversy. Many felt that Dubois did not play his best and tried to help Lyon win (and therefore secure a place in the Champions League). This ridiculous charge was shouted the loudest by Kita himself, who accused Dubois of turning his back during one of Lyon’s goals. Kita was already steamed at him for leaving on a free transfer (Dubois had been butting heads with Kita for some time and finally refused a contract extension), but this new round of ranting has caused a permanent rift between him and Dubois.
Moving on from the drama, let’s talk about Nantes’s squad. They had a relatively modest transfer window, bringing in €15m worth of players and selling €5m. The most notable signing is Belgian international Anthony Limbombe (he was not part of the World Cup squad). Nantes also purchased Fabio from Middlesbrough. For those of you not in the know, Fabio is our Rafael’s identical twin brother, and they play in the same position. Hijinks will surely ensue tomorrow. Americans may recognize another name in their squad – Matt Miazga, a US international and also the guy who did this a few weeks ago. OL faithful will remember Samuel Moutoussamy, who trained at Lyon but moved to Nantes for his first professional contract.
Nantes have 5 points from 7 games and are in 19th place. Before you feel too sorry for them, they are adrift of 2nd place Lyon by only 8 points, which is also the point gap between Lyon and PSG. So Nantes’s numbers aren’t so terrible when taken in context. They’ve scored 7 goals and conceded 12. Their top scorer is currently Emiliano Sala, with 4 goals (which ties him with Kylian Mbappe and Betrand Traoré).
Le groupe nantais: Dupé, Olliero, Tatarusanu – Diego Carlos, Fabio, Kwateng, Lima, Mbodji, Miazga – Boschilia, Dabo, Evangelista, Khrin, Limbombe, Moutoussamy, Rongier, Touré – Coulibaly, Majeed
Unfortunately for Nantes, they will be without the services of Sala, who is out injured. Statistics are also against them – Nantes have not won an away game at Lyon since 1993, and in the past 20 years, have only managed to draw twice.
But this is a club backed against the wall, and Cardoso has encouraged his players to take the example of Nice, who ended their winless streak by beating Lyon at Parc OL. The players will take courage that another small, troubled team was able to beat the Lyon Ogre in its own den.
Unlike Nantes, Lyon are coming off a good week. They’ve notched 3 wins in seven days, so their confidence is sky high. But no one is taking a victory against Nantes for granted. Lyon historically flub what should be easy games, and the last time they played a team whose manager was on the verge of getting sacked, they lost at home.
There is also their upcoming schedule to worry about as well. After tomorrow’s match against Nantes, they’ll be playing Shakhtar at home (in an empty stadium) only three days later. A few days after that, they’ll be away to PSG. Genesio has only one thing on his mind, and that’s squad rotation.
The squad did pick up a few injuries over the weekend. Bad news on Martin Terrier, who sprained his ankle and will not only miss the game against Nantes but Shakhtar as well. This is a blow to the young striker, who was hoping to make his Champions League debut against the Ukrainians. No word yet on whether he’ll be fit for PSG, but I would be surprised if he were.
Le groupe lyonnais: Lopes, Gorgelin – Rafael, Dubois, Morel, Denayer, Marcelo, Marçal, Mendy – Aouar, Ferri, Ndombele, Diop, Cornet – Depay, Traoré, Pintor, Fekir, Dembélé
Also missing out is Kenny Tete, who picked up a small injury during training (like he would have played anyway). Returning to the squad is Tanguy Ndombele, who was was taken off during the match against Dijon due to pain. Nabil Fekir, Ferland Mendy, and Maxwel Cornet, who were left out last weekend, return to the group as well.
Possible Lineup Options:
Even though Marçal is back, I would be surprised to see him start. I expect Genesio to play the newly returned Ferland Mendy. Since it’s Nantes and Leo Dubois attended the press conference, my guess is Rafael will be benched.
It’s likely that Genesio will rest Ndombele. However, Houssem Aouar needs rest too, and with Lucas Tousart suspended, that does leave rather slim pickings for his midfield. I personally thought this would be an excellent occasion to call up Maxence Caqueret, but alas, no.
L’Equipe is suggesting this lineup:
Dubois – Marcelo – Morel – Mendy
Diop – Aouar
Traoré – Fekir – Cornet
I’m not sure what his plan is for Aouar – take him off halfway? Bench him against Shakhtar? What I do know is Lyon needs Aouar for PSG, a game he cannot play unless he gets some rest in between.
With Nabil Fekir back, that will help balance out the midfield. Maxwel Cornet will his first minutes since Manchester City, and Memphis will start over Moussa Dembélé. It’s perhaps a bit unfair to the ex-Celtic player, as he had an outstanding game against Dijon while Traoré was extremely underwhelming. Memphis has also had a slow start to his season. But perhaps Genesio is thinking to Thursday as well.
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I expect Lyon to play a low-octane game (which is usually what gets them into trouble!). I’ll be happy to walk away with 1-0.