Lyon out to make Caen pay for Coupe exit
By I. Holyman
Olympique Lyonnais will seek to get their stuttering season back on track and claim a measure of revenge when they play host to SM Caen on Sunday.
Olympique Lyonnais - SM Caen
>> CLICK HERE FOR LIVE SCORING AND STATISTICS FROM 17:00CET ON SUNDAY
In second place in Ligue 1 Conforama after beating Paris Saint-Germain, a result that was followed by a Coupe de France victory at AS Monaco, life was rosy for Lyon in mid-January.
February, however, saw just two points earned from four league matches, and March started with last weekend's 1-1 draw at Montpellier that means OL come into Week 29 nine points behind second-placed AS Monaco and automatic UEFA Champions League group stage qualification.
"There is disappointment, but the players showed character and quality to come back into the match after conceding such an early goal," said Lyon boss Bruno Genesio after Mariano Diaz's second-half equaliser had earned a point on the Mediterranean coast.
WATCH: Lyon make point at Montpellier
"If we are to have regrets, they are not from this match, but rather from the games against Monaco, Rennes or Lille. I thought we could have won the game because we had opportunities. The players showed mental strength and the second half can help us going forward.
"As long as (the podium) remains mathematically possible we will keep believing. The team showed a positive energy in the second half in a difficult context."
There was still more cause for optimism after Thursday's 1-0 win at CSKA Moscow in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League Last 16 tie that came courtesy of a Marcelo header.
Ultimate victory in that European competition, whose final will be played at Lyon's Groupama Stadium, would mean UEFA Champions League participation again next season for the seven-time French title winners.
Genesio acknowledged, however, there is still work to be done in next week's home leg.
"The evening would have been perfect if we had scored a second or even a third goal, because I think we had chances to do that. But it's still a good away result," he noted. "It's also positive that we didn't pick up any injuries given what we have facing us ahead of the international break. Having said that, we're only at half-time in the tie."
Genesio will be doubly wary of the perils of cup football having seen Caen dump his side out of the Coupe de France just a week before Lyon's trip to Moscow.
Ismaël Diomandé's late header was enough to take the Normandy side into the semi-finals to meet Paris Saint-Germain and leave Lyon nursing regrets over what might have been.
WATCH: Lyon win in Caen in Week 16
Like Lyon, Caen have been in poor form, but they snapped a three-game winless run in L1 with last weekend's 2-0 win at home to RC Strasbourg-Alsace, and they will head to France's second city hopeful of adding to the solitary win they have in 15 previous visits.
"I was worried about the physical state of the players and the emotional fall-out from the Cup. We had to remobilise quickly for this one," said coach Patrice Garande after seeing Enzo Crivelli and Frédéric Guilbert give his team a welcome three points that left them seven points clear of the drop zone.
"We won, but that is all we will come away with from the game because it wasn't a great match. It was two teams with identical systems, and so we sort of cancelled each other out. The technical quality was not great, but once again we showed the virtues of solidarity.
"Even with the fatigue, the players kept going and never gave up, and they were rewarded. I'm not going to be unhappy about how clinical we were against Lyon in the Cup and then against Strasbourg. I hope we can keep that up."
Lyon: to follow
Caen: to follow