Lyon aim to kick-start top-three bid
By A. Scott
Olympique Lyonnais will be relieved to get back to playing in front of their own fans as they welcome Stade Rennais FC to the Groupama Stadium for the Sunday night game in Week 25.
Olympique Lyonnais - Stade Rennais FC
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Bruno Genesio's side have not had a home outing since Memphis Depay's stunning late goal secured a 2-1 win over Ligue 1 Conforama leaders Paris Saint-Germain three weeks ago. After that victory they sat second in the table, a tantalising eight points behind PSG at the summit. However, since then they have suffered consecutive defeats on their travels, at the hands of Girondins de Bordeaux (3-1) and AS Monaco (3-2), despite playing most of the latter game with an extra man. As a result, Lyon now find themselves 14 points off top spot and, crucially, down in fourth, out of the qualifying places for next season's UEFA Champions League altogether.
They need to get back on track quickly, but being back at the Groupama Stadium is a boost. Just three of their 14 matches in all competitions since the beginning of December have been at home, with their last four games all told coming on the road. That includes a morale-boosting 2-1 win at Montpellier Hérault SC in the round of 16 of the Coupe de France on Wednesday, when Maxwel Cornet and Nabil Fekir got their goals, the latter from the penalty spot.
"It does you good to get back to winning ways after two defeats. We needed to turn things around and respond with a victory," said Bertrand Traoré, who recently returned after a knee injury and set up Cornet's opener at the Stade de la Mosson. "Personally, it was nice to get an assist. It is important for the team. I feel good since my return, but now it's about putting the games together and especially the victories."
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OL have lost just once in 17 home games in all competitions going back to last May. They need to keep that form going, with the visit of mid-table Rennes being followed by the first leg of their UEFA Europa League last-32 tie against crack Spanish outfit Villarreal next Thursday.
Rennes come into the game still harbouring hopes of hauling themselves into European contention. That is despite dropping to 10th in the table after consecutive league defeats, either side of their Coupe de la Ligue semi-final loss to PSG.
Sabri Lamouchi's side were deeply unlucky to lose to EA Guingamp in last weekend's Brittany derby, conceding the only goal of the game right of the death as they pushed men forward in search of a winner. This is probably not the fixture they would have wanted as they look to revive their top-six push, though.
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"They are always up there, and I get the impression that every year their ambitions are that bit greater," said the former Lyon full-back Mehdi Zeffane of his old club. "They are one of the best footballing sides around. They have had two straight defeats in the league, but is it a good time to play them? I don't know. We'll only be focusing on ourselves because we need points."
Rennes are without the suspended Benjamin André, a fixture in the side this season. Meanwhile, the Breton club this week released the South African forward Kermit Erasmus after just 12 appearances for the club in two years.
Lyon: A.Lopes; Tete, Marcelo, Morel, Marçal; Fekir (cap), Tousart, Ndombele; B.Traoré, Mariano Diaz, Aouar
Rennes: Koubek; H.Traoré, Gnagnon, Gélin, Bensebaini; Léa-Siliki, Prcic; Bourigeaud, Khazri (cap), I.Sarr; D.Sakho