Lyon out to keep pace with PSG
By A. Scott
Relieved to see the transfer window slam shut, Olympique Lyonnais can now focus on their trip to face AC Ajaccio as they seek to keep the pressure on Paris Saint-Germain in the Ligue 1 title race. Live scoring from 14:00 CET.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
OL coach Rémi Garde must have feared losing the majority of his senior players at one point before the winter transfer market ended, with the likes of Bafétimbi Gomis, Lisandro López, Yoann Gourcuff and Jimmy Briand all linked with moves away from the club. In the end, the only senior players to depart last month were Michel Bastos and Fabián Monzón.
The latter had failed to make an impact since signing in the summer and will not be greatly missed as he heads on loan to Fluminense in Brazil. In contrast, Bastos and his dangerous left foot will be missed, but Garde will still be relieved to see most of his squad remain intact.
"It wasn't easy to work during the mercato," he said. "The players were really quite distracted by it all. We lost Michel, who brought us a lot as a player. Losing a player like him means we have not reinforced but we turn the page now. I want to work and help this group progress. There are a lot of young players and I hope they realise that we have two beautiful challenges to look forward to in the coming months, with Ligue 1 and the Europa League."
After a slow start to 2013, Lyon appeared to turn a corner last weekend in their 2-0 win at Valenciennes, as early goals by Gueïda Fofana and Gomis - his 12th of the season - helped them to a fourth victory in five away outings. Their only away setback in that time was the 1-0 defeat away to PSG, but Lyon remained neck and neck with the capital club coming into the weekend and they can be confident of getting a result against a struggling Ajaccio side, even if Garde is naturally cautious.
Lyon will be without Lisandro and Briand for the game - the latter saw a loan move to AS Monaco collapse at the last minute - and Garde believes that Ajaccio are steadily improving under their new coach Albert Émon.
"Licha has not yet recovered from his calf injury, and Jimmy will not be in the travelling party either," said Garde. "This Ajaccio team have drawn their last three matches. From afar, it looks like they are beginning to turn things around since the change of coach in Albert Émon. Like every away match, this will be difficult."
Émon, who replaced the sacked Alex Dupont over the winter break, has reason to be encouraged by his team’s performances in the New Year. However, last week’s 1-1 draw away to Evian-Thonon-Gaillard in Annecy means they have now gone six matches without a win in all competitions and have won just once in their last ten league outings.
Hindered by a two-point deduction handed down following incidents after last season’s 1-1 draw against Lyon at the Stade François-Coty, the Corsicans remain too close to the relegation zone for comfort and have this week seen no-nonsense Algerian defender Carl Medjani depart for Monaco.
However, Émon was largely successful in the January window, with last week’s signings of Matthieu Chalmé and Dennis Oliech - who scored on his debut against Evian - being joined by the experienced Ronald Zubar just before the deadline. Zubar, who joins from Wolverhampton Wanderers in England, played under Émon at Marseille and will help fill the gap vacated by Medjani.
"Even although it has been a long time since I saw this player, I know that Ronald likes to defend and has above average technical qualities," said Émon, who hopes to welcome back Mehdi Mostefa and Chahir Belghazouani after their returns from the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. "Lyon are a very competitive team away from home that often scores early goals. We need to be very vigilant."