Lyon the form team ahead of derby
By A. Scott
In-form Olympique Lyonnais are aiming to extend their recent winning run into Sunday's derby clash with AS Saint-Etienne, always one of the most hotly anticipated fixtures in the Ligue 1 Conforama calendar.
AS Saint-Etienne - Olympique Lyonnais
Lyon make the 60 kilometre journey along the road to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in buoyant mood after beating English Premier League side Everton 3-0 on Thursday to close in on the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League. Bertrand Traoré, Houssem Aouar and Memphis Depay got the goals for Bruno Genesio's side at the Groupama Stadium as they made it an impressive five wins in a row in all competitions. They have scored 15 goals in that sequence and they are now eight matches unbeaten in all since suffering their only defeat of the campaign so far, a 2-0 reverse away to Paris Saint-Germain in September.
OL ended last weekend in third place in the table, just three points behind reigning champions AS Monaco in second and four points clear of Saint-Etienne, who were sixth. The outlook is bright just now and they will be confident of claiming a first win away to their bitter rivals since November 2013, when Jimmy Briand's stoppage-time goal secured a 2-1 victory.
Highlights: Lyon ease past Metz
"We wanted to prepare in the best possible way for the derby. We are on a great run and now we need to make it six in a row against Saint-Etienne," said the midfielder Lucas Tousart after the Everton encounter. "We are putting together a run of good performances but we are staying measured because, as the coach says, everything remains fragile and sometimes it is the little details that decide games."
Lyon are scoring goals for fun, with 16 netted in their last five Ligue 1 Conforama outings. They have 27 in total in the league this season, more than double Saint-Etienne's tally of 13. Indeed, the contrast between the two teams in that department is especially striking, with Les Verts toiling up front in a 0-0 draw with Toulouse FC last weekend. Romain Hamouma missed the best chances for the visitors at Le Stadium, and coach Óscar García - who has complained publicly of his side's lack of a striker - needs to find attacking inspiration from somewhere.
García's first derby
Saint-Etienne have won just once - against bottom side FC Metz - in six games in all competitions, a run that has seen them slip off the Ligue 1 Conforama podium and exit the Coupe de la Ligue at the first hurdle. That has put some pressure on their Spanish coach, who will be eager to continue the respectable record of his predecessor in this fixture.
Les Verts had not won the derby since 1994 when Christophe Galtier took over at the end of 2009, but he went on to win five and draw three of 15 meetings with OL in his time in charge. Sainté have won the last three derbies at Le Chaudron, all without conceding a goal.
Highlights: Saint-Etienne toil in Toulouse
"With a budget three times greater than ours, OL dominated for a long time but we have managed to turn things around in the last few seasons," said Saint-Etienne president Roland Romeyer. "This game will be a sell-out. OL naturally come into it as favourites with their financial might and we will have to put in a performance of great men. We have won the recent derbies at Geoffroy-Guichard thanks to our team spirit, and we will again need that combativeness and bravery on Sunday."
The home side may be fresher after a free midweek, but they are hindered by injuries. Rémy Cabella has not recovered from a broken toe, while skipper Loïc Perrin and striker Loïs Diony are still sidelined with calf injuries.
Saint-Etienne: Ruffier (c); Pierre-Gabriel, Théophile-Catherine, Lacroix, Pogba, Gabriel Silva; Dabo, Hernani, Pajot; Hamouma, Bamba
Lyon: Lopes; Tete, Marcelo, Morel, Marçal; Tousart, Aouar; Traoré, Fekir (c), Depay; Mariano Díaz