The French invade Germany: Hoffenheim vs. Lyon Preview

It’s been three weeks since Lyon’s last Champions League outing, where they had a rather bizarre closed door match against Shakhtar Donetsk. Since then, they’ve been embarrassingly beaten by PSG, had some time off for international week, and then returned for another blah performance against Nimes.

They’ve also been piling on the injuries. As soon as someone’s back on his feet, another one’s getting carried off the pitch. Genesio’s been forced to dip into the youth squad, which is hilarious considering that Lyon is fielding the 4th youngest squad in both the Champions League and Ligue 1.

Lyon’s current form is anyone’s guess. Hoffenheim won’t know what’s coming, but neither does anybody else.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018
Rhein-Neckar-Arena
3 PM ET (21:00 CET)

Background Info:

Lyon’s away record against German teams is abysmal, with a record of 4W-2D-7L in all European competitions. If you factor in just the last ten years, it’s worse – all three games were losses (at Schalke and twice at Bayern).

Hoffenheim, on the other hand, has never played a French team, but this is also their first time ever in the Champions League group stages. Less than 20 years ago, they were a 5th division side, and this being only their 10th year in the German topflight, just being in the Champions League is a reward on its own.

But Hoffenheim isn’t going to be satisfied with a mere appearance. They’ve entered the tournament with guns blazing, scraping a 2-2 draw away at Shakhtar and then fighting until the bitter end against Manchester City, who had to resort to a last minute goal to win. Their blood is up, and they won’t be satisfied until they’ve done their very best to take their first scalp in this competition.

Aren’t they lucky that Lyon is so generous with theirs?

Hoffenheim did not give Manchester City an easy time.

Hoffenheim’s domestic form has been so-so. They’re currently in 8th place, with 3 wins, 1 draw, and 4 losses. They’ve scored 14 and allowed 13. However, the Bundesliga table is very close, with only 7 points separating Hoffenfeim from 3rd place.

Besides their overall pluck and tenacity, they are known for their youth. Their U19 team is currently tied with Lyon’s in the UEFA Youth League (Lyon lead on goal difference), and their academy regularly churns out talent. Even their manager is young – the 31 year old Julian Nagelsmann, young enough to be a player on his own team – broke the competition record for the youngest coach in Champions League history.

This season, Hoffenheim will at least aim to match last year’s 3rd place finish. Selling off mostly bench players (they gotten rid of only €3m worth of players this season), they’ve made some smart signings to further strengthen their squad. They’ve spent close to €30m this summer, which is a record for them. However, none of their signings individually go above €8m, as Nagelsmann confirmed he was looking at who the best players were for his team over any individual talent.

A lesson that certain other teams should take note of.

Wandering for years, perhaps Belfodil will finally find a home at Hoffenheim.

Lyon faithful will recognize one of the new additions – Ishak Belfodil. An academy graduate of Lyon, he never quite established himself as even a bench player and has played for nine different clubs since leaving. He’s never been at a club for more than a single season since Lyon, but he’s made a bright start at Hoffenheim, with 2 goals and 1 assist already (one of those goals were against Manchester City).

Hoffenheim’s likely lineup. This 3-3-2-2 alternates with a 3-5-2.

Baumann
Bicakcic – Vogt – Adams
Schulz – Grillitsch – Kaderabek
Kramaric – Demirbay
Nelson – Szala

Players to watch out for: Belfodil (we all know how much ex players like to score against Lyon), Reiss Nelson (joint top scorer and Arsenal loanee), Ádám Szalai (joint top scorer).

Lyon news:

It’s rather telling that the biggest OL news coming out of tomorrow’s Franco-German match up doesn’t involve the French or the Germans. It’s all about Lyon’s very own Flying Dutchmen, Memphis Depay and Kenny Tete.

After a lackluster start to his season, Depay has been sparkling for the Netherlands, with three goals and two assists since September. And even though he’s been less effective with OL, he’s still tallied 2 goals and 2 assists this season. He has yet to score open his account in the Champions League with Lyon, but his confidence is up, so everyone’s been lighting candles that he finds the back of the net tomorrow.

Tete is the other big news. Having been inexplicably ignored all season by Genesio, Tete has been languishing in the reserves without really knowing why. Fortunately, Ronald Koeman didn’t agree and has been regularly him up and has even made him a starter for the Dutch national team. With injuries to both Leo Dubois and Rafael, Genesio’s hand is now forced, and he has no choice now but to start our Tete.

(Technically, he could play Ferland Mendy again at RB, but that would mean also playing Marçal, and in the game of which fullback does Genesio dislike the most, it’s Marçal > Tete).

Tete is smiling because he knows he’s going to have such an amazing game tomorrow that Genesio will be forced to question all his life decisions.

As stated above, Lyon’s form this season has been swinging from good to bad to wtf to ok to good to bad to wtf to wtf to…you get the picture. They’re in 5th place with 17 points, with 5 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses. With 16 goals scored and 12 conceded, they’re already 13 points behind 1st place PSG.

However, they do top their Champions League group with 4 points. Manchester City follow with 3 points, Shakhtar with 2, and Hoffenheim with 1. This means the group is wide open. Lyon need to secure at least 9 points to qualify. Ordinarily, getting 5 points from the 4 remaining matches shouldn’t be a big deal, but Shaktar and Hoffenhein are the opposite of pushovers. With Lyon losing two points at home to Shakhtar, that’s given new life to the other teams in the group, who still have a chance to qualify. City, of course, is expected to qualify no matter what, despite their poor outings so far.

Le groupe lyonnais: Lopes, Gorgelin, Racioppi – Tete, Morel, Denayer, Marcelo, Mendy, Marçal – Aouar, Ferri, Ndombele, Diop, Caqueret, Ndiaye, Tousart – Memphis, Traoré, Dembélé, Terrier, Pintor

In addition to Rafael and Dubois, Nabil Fekir and Maxwel Cornet also miss out due to injury. Fekir’s absence has been confirmed to last for several weeks, and he will also miss the Hoffenheim return match. As Lyon’s lynchpin, the squad struggles without him, so his loss will be keenly felt. Cornet, while not as central, is an emblematic supersub and presents Genesio with a different profile than his other attackers. Against a quick German side, he would have been a good option to have.

To account for the absences, Genesio has called up Maxence Caqueret, Lenny Pintor, and Ousseynou Ndiaye from the Youth League team.

Expected lineup:

L’Equipe is reporting the following 4-2-3-1 as the likely lineup:

Lopes
Tete – Marcelo – Denayer – Mendy
Ndombele – Tousart
Traore – Depay – Aouar
Dembele

It’s not a terrible lineup though the bench is very light. Martin Terrier and Pape Cheikh Diop are the only substitutions of note, the rest being confirmed bench and reserve team players.

Viewing Options:

  • Univision (US)
  • RMC Sport (France)
  • Bleacher Report (Streaming)

Expected Results:

A 1-1 draw. Lyon should score at least once (they’ve scored in 6 out of their last 7 away CL matches). However, they’re sure to miss even more chances while making at least one defensive error that Hoffenheim will capitalize on.

Yes, I am jaded.

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