Lacazette, Fekir to the fore as OL look to bounce back
Olympique Lyonnais will look to French international forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir for inspiration as they seek to revive their title challenge at Guingamp on Saturday afternoon.
EA Guingamp - Olympique Lyonnais
Lacazette, like Samuel Umtiti and Henri Bedimo, missed the shock 2-1 loss at home to Nice prior to the international break through suspension, a defeat which contributed to OL losing the top position in the table they'd held since Week 20.
When Lacazette and Fekir have started together, OL have managed an incredible 2.42 points per game and the duo's revived association cannot come quickly enough for the seven-time champions. Lacazette heads to Brittany with his confidence high after netting his first international goal in the 2-0 friendly win over Denmark in Saint-Etienne last Sunday. Fekir came on as a sub there, winning his second international cap following his debut in the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Brazil three days earlier.
OL coach Hubert Fournier - who had two spells at Guingamp in his playing career - hopes the feel-good factor will spill over into domestic football for both players. He said: "They've come back fully fit and feeling great. Nabil got a huge boost from his first international cap and Alex is very happy to after his first goal for Les Bleus. That they performed well gives them ideas and they know that to continue to figure at international level they need to do well at club level. Of course that lifts the level of the squad as a whole."
The internationals didn't bring only good news to Lyon, however, with Christophe Jallet stretchered off against Denmark and ruled out for a month with a shoulder injury. Jallet joins fellow French internationals Maxime Gonalons and Yoann Gourcuff (both hamstring) on the sidelines, although club captain Gonalons is back in light training. Saturday could also see long-awaited returns for Clément Grenier and Gueïda Fofana after groin and ankle injuries respectively. Milan Bisevac is a long-term absente after knee surgery in early February.
A win against Guingamp and OL will be two points clear of champions Paris Saint-Germain and a further two in front of Olympique de Marseille ahead of Sunday evening's Classique between the club's principal title rivals at the Stade Vélodrome. Fournier said: "If we manage to get a result against Guingamp, which is what we're focusing on, then we'll be able to watch the game between Marseille and Paris more attentively and more serenely. It will be a good test for both of them and a very intense match. We used up a lot of energy when we played both clubs."
Guingamp's league form has picked up again after a slump with Jocelyn Gourvennec's side managing four points from their last two games. The Coupe de France holders have a semi-final at Ligue 2 club Auxerre on Tuesday evening, an enticing encounter which could influence team selection. Benjamin Angoua is definitely out, serving the third game of his four-match ban but Jérémy Pied is available after a ban to take on the club where he spent 10 years as a youngster.
Pied: 'A match like any other'
"I still talk to some of the staff and players on the phone," Pied said of his continued relationship with his boyhood club. "I learned my trade there, so of course I have a special relationship with OL. I'm very grateful to them for everything they taught me, but now we have in front of us a match like any other. It'll be nice to see some old friends before and after the match, but for 90 minutes the main thing will be to go out there and get the win."
EA Guingamp: Lössl; Jacobsen, Kerbrat (or Sankoh), Sorbon, Lemaître; Pied, Mathis (c), Sankharé, Giresse (or Mo. Diallo; Beauvue (or S. Marveaux), Mandanne
Olympique Lyonnais: A. Lopes; M/ Dabo, Rose, Umtiti, Bedimo; Malbranque, Tolisso, Fekir, Ferri; Lacazette (c), Njie