Lyon hungry for Ligue 1 success after European exploits


Paris (AFP) – Just over a week since the end of their Champions League adventure in Lisbon, Lyon return to domestic action on Friday at home to Dijon with aspirations of dethroning Paris Saint-Germain for a first Ligue 1 title since 2008.

Lyon reached the Champions League semi-finals for only the second time, eliminating Juventus and Manchester City before falling to eventual winners Bayern Munich, as France had two clubs in the last four of the competition for the first time. 

Despite matching their best run in the tournament, the 2020-21 campaign will be Lyon’s first without European football in 24 years after finishing seventh in a shortened French season.

“We want to show we have a great team and that we can play in the Champions League again next season. We want to take back the (Ligue 1) trophy,” said defender Fernando Marcal.

“I think with a lot of work that we can compete for first place and the title. That’s our goal and not to come second or third.”

Lyon coach Rudi Garcia believes the lack of other commitments can be turned into an advantage, although the make-up of his squad could change significantly before the end of the transfer window on October 5.

Midfielder Houssem Aouar, captain Memphis Depay and forward Moussa Dembele may all be sold before then, joining a long list of key players to depart in recent years. 

“Those are just guesses. Between now and the end of the transfer period we have five matches to play. We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Garcia.

“For the time being, there’s not a lot going on in the countries where the market is open. With the consequences of the pandemic, we don’t know how clubs are going to react.” 

– Strong start essential –

If Lyon are to seriously challenge PSG, whose scheduled game at Lens on Saturday has been pushed back to September 10, they will need to make a much better start than a year ago when Sylvinho was sacked in October with the club languishing in 14th place.

“It’s very important to start strongly or you will fall behind,” stressed Garcia.

Nine games are scheduled this weekend, with Marseille due to visit Brest on Sunday despite another three reported coronavirus cases at the club.

Marseille’s planned opener against Saint-Etienne last Friday was postponed after five players tested positive for Covid-19.

Champions League newcomers Rennes are at home to Montpellier on Saturday while Nice will hope new signing Amine Gouiri can build on his two-goal debut for the club when they travel to Strasbourg.

Lille go to Reims in Sunday’s early game while Niko Kovac is chasing his first win as Monaco boss away to Metz following a 2-2 draw on the opening weekend.

One to watch: Florian Thauvin

Former Newcastle winger Thauvin missed almost the entire 2019-20 season with an ankle injury that limited him to just 20 minutes of action. 

The 27-year-old winger is entering the final season of his contract at Marseille but sporting director Pablo Longoria is keen to sort out an extension for the France international, having just tied down goalkeeper Steve Mandanda until 2024.

Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas guided the team to second place in his first year in charge and believes the return of Thauvin, scorer of 53 Ligue 1 goals in his past three full seasons, can drive the club on further.

“He’s going to give us another dimension, in tight matches he will be able to make the difference. He’ll bring his quality and assists.”

Fixtures (all times 1300 GMT unless stated)

Friday

Lyon v Dijon (1900)

Saturday

Rennes v Montpellier (1500), Strasbourg v Nice (1900)

Sunday

Reims v Lille (1100), Angers v Bordeaux, Metz v Monaco, Nantes v Nimes, Saint-Etienne v Lorient, Brest v Marseille (1900)

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