For years, Nîmes Olympique has been angling for a seat at the big table. Now that they have it, they are struggling to retain it, but the third Olympique in Ligue 1 has shown it can stand up to giants.
Nîmes experienced a strong start to the Ligue 1 season, including a 3-1 victory over Olympique Marseille. Since then, Nîmes’ progress has stalled, and after a winless run, they are flirting with relegation.
And that sounds like a problem that Olympique Lyonnais could fix.
It is that time of the year again. Fans start biting their nails and Jean-Michel Aulas prepares his laminated Qatari trump card of an excuse. And as is customary, the players prepare to shine on their only preferred stage – the big one.
Lyon travel to Paris following a disappointing week, with more than just dignity to preserve. And just before a two-week international break, a Parisian team in quest for a record-breaking win meets a side that relishes the big nights.
Sunday, October 7th, 2018 Parc des Princes, Paris 3 PM EST (21:00 CST, 20:00 UST)
On Tuesday, Bruno Genesio’s cries echoed eerily around the empty Groupama Stadium. Apparently they never quite reached the players’ ears because they regurgitated another insipid performance against Shakhtar Donetsk. Or perhaps those calls were the reason why OL suffered so much.
Lyon had previously failed to break down a struggling Nantes side, blaming a lack of motivation due to the looming European tie. Yet three days later, they could only salvage a miraculous 2-2 draw to conserve top spot in group F. Perhaps the players were once again lacking motivation ahead of tonight’s match against PSG. If that is truly the case, then the good news is that there are no more games for two weeks, so the focus should be undivided.
While Lyon are in a slump, things have looked considerably different for PSG. A string of eight consecutive league wins has sent any hope for Ligue 1 competition home in tears. Though a win for Lyon will not do much to sway the Parisians, a record is on the line for Thomas Tuchel.
A 3-0 victory against Nice allowed PSG to equal an eight-decade-old record of consecutive victories in the beginning of a Ligue 1 season. Back in 2013, it was up to Lyon to stop – or at least delay – PSG from winning their first Ligue 1 title in the Qatari era. Naturally, they failed, but today they can make amends and stop PSG from a record-breaking ninth consecutive win.
There is nothing strange with PSG’s scintillating start to the Ligue 1 season. Tuchel brought his attacking philosophy with him from Borussia Dortmund, transforming the PSG side with a 3-4-3 formation. The German also gave Neymar a new role, playing as the traditional number 10 behind the striker. The Brazilian is relishing his new playmaking position, scoring ten goals and assisting in three others in his ten appearances so far this season.
The entire team has been on fire under Tuchel’s tutelage. Liverpool has been the only bump on the road, but with 27 goals scored and just 6 conceded in Ligue 1 alone, Genesio will have to cause a small upset to upend the trend.
PSG is coming off a majestic 6-1 win against Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League. A fair warning from the infernal quartet of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani and Ángel Di Maria, if OL ever needed one.
To complicate matters further, Tuchel’s squad is almost complete, save for Adrien Rabiot. The Frenchman is suspended after accumulating yellow cards, which will likely see Marquinhos fielded with Marco Verratti in midfield again.
And before Nabil Fekir gets any wild freekick ideas, Gianluigi Buffon is rumored to start ahead of Alphonse Areola.
There were few positives from Lyon’s midweek clash against Shakhtar Donetsk. One of them was Moussa Dembélé, who scored his first Champions League goal for Lyon in his European debut with his new club. On Sunday, it will be homecoming for the ex-Celtic man, who spent eight years of his youth at PSG.
Unlike the Parisians, Lyon did not have the luxury of resting players during midweek – not that it made much of a difference. Like alternating current, Bruno Genesio keeps switching back and forth between good spells and sleep-inducing performances, but this time, anything less than electrifying will not do the job.
Few players are missing from the OL group. Most notably, Martin Terrier is still out with an ankle injury, and it will be some time before Amine Gouiri returns. Kenny Tete is still injured and out of favor, which means that Genesio will have to look elsewhere for someone to tuck Neymar in a pocket.
The good news is that Rafael is back in the team, and will probably replace Léo Dubois after the latter’s passive defensive performance against Shakhtar. Fernando Marçal’s on-and-off relationship with Genesio is currently in the off phase, and the Brazilian has been dropped again.
Lucas Tousart, back from suspension, is back in the group. As is, Jordan Ferri, who must have slipped on the coach traveling to Paris. Presumably, Genesio is too polite to ask him to stay behind.
Like against Red Star, PSG will likely come out with a 4-2-3-1 formation to guard against OL’s offensive bloc. With a congested midfield and a lethal strikeforce to back that up, Genesio will need to congest the midfield and hit PSG on the counter.
All hands will need to be on deck when defending, and with PSG’s wide players able to change the game at any moment, Genesio will likely opt for a similar 4-2-3-1. In the back, the new central duo of Marcelo and Jason Denayer could return for good, and keep the number of own goals to a minimum, unlike last year.
Tousart, who just signed a new contract binding him with Lyon until 2023, could start alongside Tanguy Ndombele, himself called with France’s senior squad for the first time.
Up front, Memphis Depay and Maxwel Cornet might start in the 4-2-3-1 formation, simultaneously looking to defend as well as hit back on the counter. If that does not work, maybe Fekir could finally get a goal against Buffon. A boy can dream.
Rafael – Marcelo – Denayer – Mendy
Ndombele – Tousart
Cornet – Fekir – Memphis
L’Equipe’s alternative is a more conservative 4-4-1-1 formation that pulls the wingers farther back into midfield. If it worked against Manchester City and Shakhtar, why wouldn’t it work against PSG? In that case, Aouar and Bertrand Traoré are likely to start as wide midfielders, with Memphis playing up front instead of Dembélé.
Even if Lyon blossoms with the underdog status, it’s difficult to see PSG dethroned. Most supporters would be happy to be a draw, but realistically, PSG will be the princes at their backyard come midnight: 2-0 for the home team.
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)
It’s been a week of champagne and chocolate. Last Wednesday’s entirely unexpected win at Manchester City, coupled with this weekend’s win over Marseille, has revitalized a Lyon side that’s struggled with form since August.
Their unconvincing season start against Ligue 1 bottom feeders Nice, Caen, Reims, Strasbourg, and Amiens – taking 7 points out of 15 – convinced both fans and pundits alike that Lyon would be lucky even to qualify for next year’s Europa League. But as usual, Lyon proved once again that they play better against bigger opponents.
Which is TERRIBLE because their next opponent is Dijon, a team that plays the kind of football that Lyon just don’t know how to deal with. It’s not going to be easy going from champagne football to sandwich toppings, and if any team can mess it up, it’s Lyon.
The battle of the Olympics has more narratives than you can poke a stick at, and it’s transforming itself into a derby and one of the fiercest in France! Coming away from a comfortable 2-1 win against English Premier League Champions and the apparent favourites to win the Champions League, Manchester City, Olympique Lyonnais are full of confidence heading into this must win tie. The form coming into this match for both teams has drastically switched from a week ago, with OM losing at home 2-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt, despite their positive results in Ligue 1.
Just a week ago, after another lacklustre performance in Ligue, President Aulas was scoffing at the idea of OL turning their season around against Man City and OM in the one week. However, since that glorious Wednesday night for OL at the Etihad Stadium which left all the English pundits in chaos control, trying to save their reputations while wiping the egg off their face, things couldn’t be more positive for OL. The form graph/chart/diagram/whatever you want to call it, couldn’t have swung more in OL’s favour.
If you haven’t visited Caen’s website, immediately drop what you’re doing and do so now. Their match preview for this weekend’s game is so good that I absolutely cannot beat it.
Some might think that the beast that will enter the Caen arena on Saturday evening has lost its presence, and that other chimeras now reign in the jungle of French football, starting with the Parisian ogre, who leaves its victims barely alive in order to keep a little room in his stomach so that it can swallow bigger prey the following week.
Lyon, however, remains cloaked by an aura and a history that no one dares to challenge: carrying an attack that their feline dispositions render graceful, their mere presence offering the certainty of a rare spectacle, while giving rise to the desire for an exploit.
Amazing, amirite??? I haven’t seen so many scary hunting references since I went on a safari in South Africa, when guides took me and my friend on a terrifying game drive in the middle of the night and thought it would be hilarious to take us close to feasting hyenas. Nope, never again.
Saturday, September 15h, 2018 Stade Michel d’Ornano, Caen 11 AM EST (17:00 CET, 16:00 UST)
As a Lyon fan, I’m usually too busy feeling sorry for my own team to care much over the troubles of others. But Nice’s predicament is woeful enough that it’s caught notice around the world, and frankly, it makes Lyon look like a club that has its shit together.
Yeah, Nice is that badly off.
We’re only 3 games in, and a lot can change, but Nice have played some of their easier opponents – Reims, Caen, and Dijon. Two of those games have been at home, and yet Nice have taken only 1 point and have conceded 6 goals (while scoring only 1). Their journey only becomes harder because after Lyon, they’ll next be facing Rennes, Montpellier, and PSG.
Friday, August 31st, 2018 Parc OL, Lyon 2:45 PM EST (20:45 CET, 19:45 CET)