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.
If someone scores a goal, and there is no one around to cheer, did it really happen?
This is the kind of existential question that will be answered tomorrow when Lyon welcome Shakhtar Donetsk for their first home Champions League game of the season…to be played in an empty stadium.
UEFA’s punishment is still standing, with Lyon being taken to task for the behavior of some of their fans. Read about the whole sorry mess here. Not only will no one be allowed inside, but the club will suffer a loss of €6m in ticketing and other matchday revenue. The squad has rarely played in empty stadiums and are prepared to soldier on, but both sides will struggle at the silence.
Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018 Parc OL, Lyon 3 PM EST (21:00 CET, 20:00 UST)
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.
From a purely sporting standpoint, even the most optimistic Lyon fans expect Manchester City to win on Wednesday. In all honesty, this preview should end right here because the game should be a foregone conclusion.
But if there’s one team on this planet that never does what they’re supposed to, it’s Lyon. They lose when they’re supposed to win, they win when they’re supposed to lose. I can’t remember the last time when everything went as planned.
So who knows what Wednesday will bring. After losing to a bunch of relegation-level teams these past two months, Lyon are ready to face one of the best teams in the world.
Wednesday, September 19th, 2018 Etihad Stadium, Manchester 3 PM EST (21:00 CET, 20:00 UST)
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)
Last week, Lyon’s all-world team of superstars kicked off their quest toward a 13th straight D1 Féminine title with an 8-0 win over Lille. Lyon are top of the table just one week in, and we fully expect they’ll be there when the season wraps up in May. But every team of heroes needs its supervillains, and D1F has its share of pretenders aiming to knock les Fenottes off the throne. While the team is off for the international break, let’s get to know the challengers. Continue reading “Bring on the Pretenders: Sizing Up the D1F Competition”→