A miracle to see Europe: Lyon must now win the Champions League so as not to end two decades of presence on the continental scene. Mission almost impossible, even if there are grounds for hope to take the first step against Juventus in a week.
Since the summer of 1997 - 23 consecutive seasons! - Olympique Lyonnais have always taken part in European games: Intertoto Cup, UEFA Cup, Champions League. The defeat in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue on Friday against Paris SG on penalties (0-0, 6-5 tab) brings Jean-Michel Aulas' club closer to the abyss.
But the defensive strength displayed against the Parisian armada (admittedly deprived of Kylian Mbappé) allows coach Rudi Garcia to look with envy towards the round of 16 second leg of C1 Friday in Turin (1-0 victory in the first leg) , on condition of being sharper in attack and recovering from Friday's effort.
. A defense that holds
"We held high at Paris SG. It's a good basis for our work," said Garcia, at a press conference after the lost final. In 120 minutes against Paris SG, his team generally held out in defense, and only found themselves in difficulty at very rare times, on Parisian occasions mainly coming from Neymar.
Friday at Juventus Stadium, it is Cristiano Ronaldo and company who will tackle to blow up the Lyon defense, held by the Denayer-Marcelo-Marçal trio well in place on Friday, despite a gross blunder from the Belgian who could have been very expensive in second period.
Behind the Lyon defense, Anthony Lopes, who replaced Romanian goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu at the last minute, showed himself imperial in his interventions against Neymar, Idrissa Gueye or Sarabia. He missed a save during the penalty shootout.
"Lyon have a lot of good players. It was very difficult for us to attack. They have great players. Caqueret, Guimaraes, Aouar ...", praised the Spanish midfielder of PSG Ander Herrera, who entered the hour of play. "Aouar is one of the best players in France," he added.
. Sharper in attack
By his dribles and his accelerations, Houssem Aouar was one of the most prominent Lyonnais at the Stade de France with the young Maxence Caqueret (20 years old), in the midfield. Too bad the attack did not take advantage of their contribution.
"It will be necessary to be better to score in Turin," said Rudi Garcia. A Lyon goal on the Turin lawn would open the doors to the Final8 in Lisbon, after the victory at the end of February at the Stade de Lyon (1-0) against the Bianconeri of Maurizio Sarri.
Less at ease, the Dutchman Memphis Depay is hoped for more legs on the side of Turin, just like Moussa Dembélé, not very dangerous against Paris.
. Recover physically and mentally
Jean-Michel Aulas repeated it after the final cessation of Ligue 1 because of the Covid-19 pandemic: the French clubs still engaged in European Cups, without official competition while the other main championships have resumed, will run out of shape.
Friday, Lyon played its first official match in four months, under scorching temperatures at the Stade de France, and for 120 minutes. The organizations have suffered greatly, and the Lyon technician has prioritized recovery by Friday.
"It was our first competitive game, we saw how difficult it was. There are a lot of players who suffered physically," said Garcia, pointing to the alerts for Lopes (calf) and Marcelo (thigh) , and Tatarusanu's back injury.
Above all, the Lyonnais came close to victory. "When we play 120 minutes and we are not rewarded with the title, we will have to work the next few days psychologically. It is important to keep our heads up, to remember what we have done well to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. That's our goal, "said the Lyon coach.
© 2020 AFP