A midweek victory brought some respite for an embattled Olympique Lyonnais, but now they face a testing final game of 2019 away at Stade de Reims on Saturday evening.
Stade de Reims - Olympique Lyonnais
Lyon received a boost as they beat Toulouse FC 4-1 at the Groupama Stadium in the Coupe de la Ligue on Wednesday with Bertrand Traoré scoring twice, the result taking Rudi Garcia's side through to a quarter-final against Stade Brestois 29 in early January. Continuing their run in that competition, and going far in the Coupe de France, would provide some cheer to a club who have not won any silverware since 2012, and who are still reeling after events last weekend.
Garcia was left stunned as his side went down 1-0 at home to Stade Rennais FC in their last Ligue 1 Conforama outing, a second straight home league defeat leaving the seven-time champions in eighth position. They head into their last game of 2019 in eighth position, already six points adrift of the podium and also two points behind Reims having played a game more.
While they struggle to find consistency in results, they also need to pick themselves up after seeing both Memphis Depay and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde go off in the first half of that game with what turned out to be serious cruciate knee ligament injuries. Both players are set to miss the rest of the season, leaving Lyon to soldier on without their captain and top scorer, and one of their star summer signings.
"We will go to Reims to win even if it will be very difficult there. We will see what players we have available, but the absence of two of our forwards means I will have to think about what our best team will be," admitted Garcia after the Toulouse match.
Reims in rude health
Youngsters Rayan Cherki and Amine Gouiri both started the midweek game, along with Traoré and Maxwel Cornet, but Houssem Aouar and Moussa Dembélé should return here after being rested, although Lyon are in for a stiff test in Champagne country before they can get to January and look to reinforce their squad in the transfer window.
Lyon have lost on their last two visits to the Stade Auguste-Delaune, including a 1-0 loss at the beginning of last season. Reims also come into this match in comparatively rude health, having gone unbeaten through their last six games in all competitions. They have won their last two league outings, following league victories against AS Saint-Etienne and Toulouse with a 1-0 win over Montpellier Hérault SC in the Coupe de la Ligue in midweek, when Mathieu Cafaro's late penalty decided the game.
"I wanted us to keep our run going. The victory will help us in the league," said coach David Guion after Tuesday's game, in which he sent out just about his strongest team, although it came at a price.
Captain Alaixys Romao went off injured early on, while Xavier Chavalerin and top scorer Boulaye Dia were both facing tests to see if they would be fit for a side who have lost just once in 11 games in all competitions, have been beaten only once at home all season and who boast the best defensive record in the division along with Paris Saint-Germain, with just nine goals conceded in 17 outings.
Will Lyon's injury-hit attack be able to break down such a miserly back line?
Stade de Reims: Rajkovic; Foket, Disasi, Abdelhamid (c), H. Kamara; Chavalerin, Munetsi; Oudin, Dingomé, Cafaro; B. Dia
Olympique Lyonnais: Lopes; Tete, Marcelo, Denayer, Cornet; Tousart, Caqueret; Be. Traoré, Terrier, Aouar; Mo. Dembélé