Olympique Lyonnais’ quest to regain their French crown hasn’t exactly started smoothly, and though they are only two points behind leaders Lille going into the weekend, their encounter with Paris Saint-Germain has great significance for their season as a whole as they attempt to exert themselves on French football once again.
Les Gones were the victims of a heavy 3-0 defeat against Schalke in the Champions League on Wednesday. Had OL been competitive during the fixture, at the end of which they discovered they had sealed their place in the knockout stages in any case, the fans may have been forgiving, but the dreadful nature of the performance has discontent rising from the Stade Gerland once again.
In late September, Gones fans protested vehemently against Claude Puel’s leadership of the top team after a home derby loss against Saint-Etienne, and though similar levels of anger have not yet been demonstrated following the woeful display in Germany, it wouldn’t take much for the supporters to once again turn against their side.
At home OL have been scrapping by. Last weekend they trailed relegation threatened Racing Club de Lens 1-0 at half-time, though even the most anti-Puel Lyon fans would have had to have been impressed by the way in which the Rhone side turned things around in the second half to win 3-1, with Bafetimbi Gomis and Jean Makoun, two players who didn’t start in midweek, the chief architects.
More is on the line here than simply Lyon getting back towards the summit; their status as a team to be feared is too.
Getting Back To Their Best?
While Lyon appear to be a club slipping back towards the pack in Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain, after a decade of disappointment, are starting to regain their status as a club to be feared in France. Antoine Kombouare’s first season may have been relatively unimpressive, but he is making the most of the extra-life winning the Coupe de France gave him.
Les Parisiens are stationed third in Ligue 1, and they are in the midst of a remarkable run of only one loss in 16 matches in all competitions. They have nothing to fear travelling to the Stade Gerland, where they have already picked up a win in the Coupe de la Ligue this season, albeit only after a period of extra-time.
There was a distinct lack of balance about les Parisiens last season, but with some subtle alterations to their side, they appear to have found a winning formula. Perhaps the most important changes have been made in the midfield, where Nene has been introduced to the left flank after a summer move from Monaco, while Clement Chantome has been given a long overdue run in the heart of the side.
The improvement has been felt at both ends of the field. PSG are now scoring more - and have the potential to improve their record still given that Mevlut Erding and Guillaume Hoarau are yet to really find top gear – and conceding less.
Off the field many of the most vociferous fans are still not pleased at the club board’s endeavours to make les Parisiens a more family-friendly club, but if success follows on the park, they may yet be tempted back in the long run.
After picking up a heavy knock in midweek, Yoann Gourcuff will not be available for selection, though there is better news regarding central defender Cris, who should shake his tendonitis to feature.
Ederson, Cesar Delgado and Clement Grenier remain sidelined.
Suspensions are PSG’s biggest problem at present. Powerful centre-back Mamadou Sakho and dynamic midfield ball carrier Clement Chantome are both banned.
Jean-Eudes Maurice is the only serious injury worry as Ceara is expected to return from a broken nose.