Perrin: 'Always special'

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AS Saint-Etienne skipper Loïc Perrin talks to The Ligue 1 Show about the special rivalry between Les Verts and Olympique Lyonnais.

Saint-Etienne host OL in the 115th derby at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Sunday before what will be a sell-out crowd, with the home side looking to move to within a point of their visitors with a victory. But this is about so much more than just the three points.

"It's always special. The supporters can't wait for this game. They came to the training ground in the days before and they let the new players know just how important this game is," Perrin told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN Sports.

"It's still only three points but victories against Lyon are prestigious. If you win the derby it's a special night. When you get the taste for a derby victory it's something you want to experience again and again."

Hometown team

Perrin will not feature against OL as he continues his recovery from a calf problem that has kept him out for over a month now, but it will still be a special occasion.

The 32-year-old was born and raised in Saint-Etienne, and joined his local club aged 12, experiencing the rivalry with Lyon from a young age in the hotly disputed youth matches between the two clubs. Now in his 15th season, the central defender is closing in on 400 appearances for his beloved Saint-Etienne. He has experienced many ups and downs, but never more so than in this fixture with a difference.

"I remember one of the first derbies, I didn’t come on, but we lost 3-2 at home," Perrin said, recalling a 3-2 loss in October 2004 when Sidney Govou got a late winner for Lyon.

"I think we were 2-1 up and Lyon scored two late goals. I experienced that one from the bench. It was a difficult night because we played well, but in the end Lyon’s talent got the better of us.

Blaise Matuidi and Dimitri Payet celebrate after the latter's free-kick which won the 100th derby

"When I started out, Saint-Etienne had just been promoted. We'd come up from Ligue 2, and Lyon were the dominant force in French football. They won a huge number of trophies, and they had an amazing team. So every time we played a derby, they were special games, but they were so hard. Maybe not like playing PSG today, but there was a real gulf between the teams."


Sainté's fortunes turned for the better after Christophe Galtier became coach in late 2009, and the following season they beat their rivals for the first time in 16 years thanks to a Dimitri Payet goal at the Stade de Gerland.

"I think we'd developed an inferiority complex. That's why our first win, in the 100th derby, did us a lot of good, even though we didn't deserve it," Perrin said. "It was a miraculous victory. We defended the whole game, and we must have cleared three or four balls off the line. I don't know how many exactly, but we lived very dangerously. And then Dimitri Payet scored a magnificent free-kick.

"When you win this kind of game, it feels good, especially as it was our first derby win for many years, and I think that helped us for future derbies too."

There were still bitter experiences against Lyon in the Galtier era, like a 2-1 loss at Le Chaudron in November 2013 when Jimmy Briand scored a 93rd-minute winner for the visitors.

"I think Lyon were no longer quite as strong as during that period when they won however many consecutive league titles, and I think we were a bit stronger too, so the games were close, we’d win some and we’d lose some, but overall our recent derby record has been quite good," Perrin said.

Watch: Saint-Etienne win 3-0 against OL in 2014

"Losing in the dying moments is never fun, losing like that to any team is cruel, so for it to happen in the derby it's even worse."

'Closed the gap'

Sainté have bounced back from that, though, and have won their last three home meetings with Lyon, all without conceding. In November 2014 they ran riot, winning 3-0 in Perrin's favourite derby experience.

"It's one of...well, no, it's the best derby we've played. We turned in the perfect derby performance. Everything we tried came off. We'd love to play like that every weekend, but it's not possible over a whole season. But that night we were excellent, we played with great commitment, I think we surprised Lyon, and we also got the breaks, and you need a bit of luck to win any match.

"In the end we secured a superb 3-0 win. Yes, that's my favourite win because it was in our stadium. It was like when we won the Coupe de la Ligue - the fans had been waiting for it for years and that was an incredible night.

"I think Lyon are superior to Saint-Etienne in general. But I think we have closed the gap in the last few years, especially compared to the early part of the last decade. Nobody knows how this match will go. It'll depend on how we play - of course both teams want to win the derby, and I hope it'll be us."

>> MATCH PREVIEW: Lyon the form team ahead of derby

>> PLAYER PROFILE: Loïc Perrin

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