A resurgent AS Saint-Etienne will provide faltering Olympique Lyonnais with an imposing obstacle in Sunday’s Rhône derby as OL seek to get their podium challenge back on track.
Olympique Lyonnais – AS Saint-Etienne
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Second after their thrilling 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain in Week 22, Lyon’s bid for an automatic UEFA Champions League group stage qualifying place has come off the rails since.
Last weekend’s 2-2 draw at LOSC Lille — in which the seven-time French champions had to settle for a point after holding a two-goal lead — was the first time Bruno Genesio’s men had avoided defeat in four league matches since their victory over PSG.
“We weren’t humble enough for top level sport. I told my players what I think and it will stay between us,” fumed the OL boss, whose team are now fourth, six points behind Olympique de Marseille in third and a further point adrift of second-placed AS Monaco.
“As for the podium, well you never know what will happen in sport. Sport is a team game played by individuals who don’t always think about the team. It’s not because we played a bit deeper in the second half that we conceded twice. The lack of humility was down to us leading 2-0 at the break.”
Perhaps the lesson has been learned with Villarreal clinically seen off in midweek with Lyon completing a UEFA Europa League 4-1 aggregate triumph thanks to a controlled, disciplined 1-0 win in Thursday’s second leg in Spain.
Marcelo: ‘Things will get better’
“When one or two players don’t defend, it’s difficult for us. But when everyone defends like they did this evening, it’s better,” Marcelo, one of the more experienced members of Genesio’s predominantly young squad, explained. “We were able to resist when Villarreal tried to provoke us, I saw what they were trying to do, but I have enough experience to control myself.”
The former PSV Eindhoven and Besiktas centre-back added: “Each match is different. It’s sometimes difficult to maintain the same standard throughout the season. But if we keep that discipline, things will get better.”
That was what Saint-Etienne were saying to themselves when, after a positive start to the season, their campaign began to fall apart. A run of just one win in 13 league games from mid-October left Les Vertsin freefall and perillously close to the bottom three.
Since, three wins in a four-game unbeaten run have steered Jean-Louis Gasset’s squad into calmer waters, but with seven points between themselves and the relegation/promotion place and fifth-placed FC Nantes just six points ahead of them, the visitors have so much more to play for than local bragging rights.
“We have to keep cool and remind ourselves of the moments which we have gone through. We have to keep enjoying ourselves. The teams ahead of us aren’t very far off, those behind neither,” captain Loïc Perrin reminded everyone, and noted his team have a measure of revenge to exact after losing the first derby of the season 5-0.
“I know the fans are hurt by the first game, they can’t forget it. It’s up to us to turn things round and make them happy.”
Lyon: Gorgelin; Rafael, Marcelo, Morel, Marçal; Tousart, Ndombele; Traoré, Fekir (c), Aouar; Mariano Díaz
Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Debuchy, Subotic, Perrin (c), Gabriel Silva; M’Vila, Selnaes; Bamba, Cabella, Monnet-Paquet; Beric