Champions League place on line for Lyon when Neymar-less PSG visit
Background photo: Times, CC BY-SA 3.0
Finishing in a Champions League spot is the most important thing for Lyon this season. There are just three in Ligue 1. They sit tenuously in third with runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain on today's dance card.
Les Gones dally 16 points behind Les Rouge et Bleu. Regardless, the Kids must prove they have the mettle to renew their Champions League membership.
Surprising Lille OSC are three points above Lyon in second. Ceding more points to Christophe Galtier's crew forces Bruno Genesio's squad to spend the run-in looking over their shoulder rather than ahead.
There is an unexpected glimmer of hope. Neymar's absence from Thomas Tuchel's squad due to a broken foot is manna from heaven. Memphis Depay and Nabil Fekir can feel like it's a fair fight against Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani. There's reason to believe they can gain a positive result thanks to Lady Luck.
As it stands, Genesio sets up his team to bully lesser sides and grind it out with those of equal or better quality. Their last five opponents, Amiens, St Etienne, Toulouse, Reims and Montpellier, can all attest how difficult it is to beat Lyon. PSG don't grind out results, however. They grind opponents into dust. They can exert more pressure than most teams can absorb. Genesio may want to turn the tables by putting his side on the attack. If he can pen Tuchel during the opening exchanges and gain an early lead, the match may open for him. Doing so risks a great deal at the back if his side loses possession, though. Mbappe will be only to happy to make them pay.
OL come into the match at full strength with their top players in mixed form. Memphis Depay is struggling. Lyon's last seven Ligue 1 opponents kept him off the scoresheet. On the other hand, Nabil Fekir is feeling it. The captain has four goals and an assist in the past five matches.
The most important thing for Lyon is their confidence. PSG are not unlike Manchester City from whom OL took four points in the Champions League group stages this season. Similar tactics and mindset can produce a result against the Parisians.
PSG are the superior side in terms of quality but that is not a guarantee for results every time they take the pitch. They're on pace to win the title faster than any French club. That is the pace they are setting.
The rivalry between the two cities is nearly as fierce as that between Paris and Marseille. Form goes out the window in derby matches.
There's a great deal in Lyon's favour. Neymar is out. The match is at the Olympic Stadium. The home team is on an unbeaten run. Their captain is tearing it up. In addition, PSG must worry about Manchester United in the Champions week in less than a fortnight. The Red Devils are playing positive football under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Tuchel's squad may not be fully focussed on the team in front of them. Lyon can take advantage if they aren't. This is a game that Les Gones need far more than their opponent. Can they handle the pressure?