Lyon is the city known as the gastrological capital of France, and there is sure to be a treat served up on Tuesday evening, when les Gones and les Girondins meet.
Stade Gerland, Lyon
Seeking The Semis
It’s been in with the old and out with the new in French football over the last couple of years, and unfortunately for Olympique Lyonnais, that has meant Girondins de Bordeaux usurping them at the top of the food chain. The Champions League quarter-final against the Aquitaine upstarts provides Claude Puel’s side with the opportunity to fight back against the side who last season destroyed their domination of the French game.
The Ligue 1 title also seems out of reach of les Gones for this campaign. Though OL are only two points from the summit, they are ranked fifth in the standings and have played two games more than Bordeaux, who occupy top spot. However, Lyon kept their dreams alive with a 2-0 victory over Grenoble on Saturday evening.
Goals from Michel Bastos and Cesar Delgado provided OL with a deserved win in a match that had controversially been switched from an original Sunday date to the preceding Friday and then to the Saturday. The LFP (Ligue de Football Professionel) argued that such a decision was taken out of fair play towards Bordeaux, who played the Coupe de la Ligue final against Olympique de Marseille on Saturday. Les Gones were left incensed that their advantage had been lost, adding needle to a match already bristling with a competitive edge.
“We’re focused purely on us and not on what Bordeaux are up to,” Puel told the media on Saturday after the weekend’s success.
While Bordeaux may be the new kings of France, deposed Lyon still possess an ability to produce the goods on the big stage. Miralem Pjanic famously knocked Real Madrid out of the competition only three weeks ago, while the pedigree of OL at the top level is well established. They may trail les Girondins in the league, but they start on Tuesday night as favourites.
Far From Their Best
The exploits of Laurent Blanc’s Bordeaux team cannot be overlooked this season. When drawn against Bayern Munich and Juventus in the group stages, pundits expected the French champions to put up a resilient fight but ultimately lack the quality of the continent’s more established names.
That forecast could barely have been proven any more incorrect as it was les Girondins who dominated the group, claiming five successive victories after drawing with Juve on the opening evening of action.
From there, Bordeaux moved by Olympiacos with another couple of wins, though there were some extremely concerning moments in the second leg. Playing at home, les Girondins seemed to have the match sewn up early when Yoann Gourcuff’s angled free kick found the net, but a total lapse in concentration allowed their Greek guests to rally late on.
Such a performance has been a little typical of Bordeaux of late. Aquitaine minds seemed to wander during the Coupe de la Ligue final against Marseille on Saturday night, never really pushing a Phoceens side who seemed destined to push les Girondins all the way in the league too. OM ran out 3-1 winners against a Bordeaux team virtually at full strength.
“We made too many mistakes and in 2010 some individual players are below par,” Blanc confessed, according to Ligue 1’s official website. “I’m looking for them to make progress on Tuesday when we play Lyon.”
Blanc’s honest assessment of his team does not belie the fact that he knows his team must do better if they are to reach the semi-finals of Europe’s elite competition.
WON 2-0 (h) Grenoble (Ligue 1, March 27)
LOST 3-1 (a) Olympique de Marseille (Ligue 1, March 21)
DREW 1-1 (h) Saint-Etienne (Ligue 1, March 13)
DREW 1-1 (a) Real Madrid (Champions League, March 10)
DREW 0-0 (a) Boulogne-Sur-Mer (Ligue 1, March 6)
LOST 3-1 (n) Olympique de Marseille (Coupe de la Ligue, March 27)
WON 3-1 (h) Lille (Ligue 1, March 21)
WON 2-1 (h) Olympiacos (Champions League, March 17)
DREW 0-0 (a) Monaco (Ligue 1, March 13)
LOST 2-1 (h) Auxerre (Ligue 1, March 10)
OL rested some of their top names at the weekend, all of whom will expect to come back into the line-up for this encounter. Lisandro Lopez and Cesar Delgado both cameoed on Saturday, though care is being taken with the latter.
Jean-Alain Boumsong is expected to make his return from a muscular problem. Francois Clerc and Cleber Anderson, two players rarely used this season, are both out.
Probable Starting XI: Lloris; Reveillere, Cris, Boumsong, Cissokho; Toulalan, Kallstrom; Govou, Pjanic, Delgado; Lisandro
There will be no place in the squad for starting centre-back Marc Planus, who is still wrestling to overcome an injury. Gregory Sertic is also missing.
Arguably the key absentee in les Girondins’ ranks is Alou Diarra, whose presence in the anchoring role will be acutely missed. He was dismissed against Olympiacos in the previous round and serves a ban.
Probable Starting XI: Carrasso; Chalme, Ciani, Henrique, Tremoulinas; Sane; Plasil, Fernando, Gourcuff, Wendel; Chamakh
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The tie-winner against Real Madrid, Bosnian youngster Miralem Pjanic has really made a name for himself during this campaign. An attacking midfielder who has the ability to dictate play, the youngster is a far more mature player than his years suggest. He turns 20 on Friday, and another decisive performance on the biggest stage would be an ideal birthday present for one of the up-and-coming players of the European game.
Michael Ciani will be handed the responsibility of marshalling home striker Lisandro Lopez. The former Lorient man has seen his notoriety increase dramatically because of his fine performances in the Champions League, with his aerial power in both boxes a major asset. Not only will he be expected to keep Lyon quiet, he will be asked to provide a real offensive threat from set-plays, which Bordeaux are so specialist at.
Though Bordeaux are the French champions and present league leaders, their recent form has been a little below par of late. Without key midfield lynchpin Alou Diarra, they are minus one of the key driving forces in their side. Lyon, meanwhile, are on something of a roll, despite their recent loss to Marseille, and will be hopeful of taking an advantage into next week’s match.
Olympique Lyonnais 1-0 Girondins de Bordeaux
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