The only side the top eight to take all three points in Round 20, Lorient are looking to push on from their 2-1 win over derby rivals Rennes and figure in the battle for Europe. And, led by coach extraordinaire Regis Le Bris, they just may have the mental strength to do it!
"We really wanted to turn in a strong performance," defender Julien Laporte told the Ligue 1 Show of the win over Rennes. "It has been a tough week, with everything that's going on around the club. But we have a terrific group of players.’
With a top player leaving and other star men being linked with moves away, Lorient managed to put the rumour mill to one side and focus on the football on Friday night. With a ruthless first-half display against Rennes, they proved strong enough to clinch local bragging rights.
"These are the kinds of games you have to win," explained coach Régis Le Bris, who has done an incredible job turning the side that finished 16th last season into European contenders. "We had to dig in at the end but the players showed courage and that’s important.’
Meanwhile the win saw Laporte very pleased to have silenced the naysayers.
"This sort of result really counts in a season," offered Laporte. "People were questioning us and we provided a response. So these three points feel really good tonight."
After a wonderful start to the season, Lorient have dropped away, but this win – only their second in ten games – suggests Regis Le Bris still has his players on side.
"The team showed its strength today," said the Lorient boss. "I knew they had this in them, but to get a win like this, in a Brittany derby at the Moustoir, will really boost their confidence. Rennes pushed hard at 2-1, but we stood firm as a team and that shows that we still have those collective values."
The win came at the end of a week of intense scrutiny off the pitch as this normally sleepy town started making headlines.
Over the past week, Lorient ceded 40 percent of the club to an American business, and sold exciting winger Dango Ouattara to Bournemouth. Top scorer Terem Moffi has also been linked with a move away, and the Nigerian was left out of the squad on Friday due to the ongoing uncertainty. Yet with four points taken from games against Monaco, Marseille and Rennes, January hasn’t been too bad after all for Les Merlus.
"We have a lot of quality, but our young players are still learning," explained Le Bris. "Some of the guys who are players today lack experience, but they’re developing all the time. I'm convinced we have enough quality in this group to do great things."
Lorient have acted quickly to bring in attacking reinforcements, with Senegal striker Bamba Dieng joining from Marseille and Lyon' Romain Faivre arriving on loan from Lyon.
"We're enjoying a really good season," said Laporte. "We just need to make this last as long as possible and see where we end up in May."
Back in the mix for Europe, Lorient could yet improve on the club’s best-ever finish of seventh place by the end of the campaign.