Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Genesio laughs off speculation as Lyon go to Nantes

Publish on 11/04/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


Under-pressure Bruno Genesio says the rumours about possible replacements for him in the Olympique Lyonnais dugout have made him laugh as he prepares for Friday's crucial Ligue 1 Conforama trip to struggling FC Nantes.

FC Nantes  -  Olympique Lyonnais 

The offer of a new contract for Genesio - whose existing deal expires at the end of the season - was put on hold by Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas in the wake of the 3-2 defeat against Stade Rennais FC in the Coupe de France semi-finals at the start of this month. Genesio's prospects of staying on were not helped by the shock 3-1 loss at home to Dijon FCO that followed last weekend, a result that came as a big blow to OL's hopes of finishing second.

After speculation linking Aulas with an approach for José Mourinho, former Girondins de Bordeaux, France and Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has now been touted as a potential successor to Genesio - Lyon released a statement on Monday "denying all contact" with Blanc or "any other coach".

"Some of the rumours make me laugh. When I read that José Mourinho was spotted at Lyon Saint-Exupéry airport, that really makes me laugh. I can't imagine that Mourinho would arrive at Saint-Exupéry among everyone else if he had a meeting with the president. Surely he would land somewhere else, more peaceful," Genesio said on Thursday.

"Otherwise I am focusing on my work with the players and my staff to try to get second place and then after that we will see."

Lyon head to the Stade de la Beaujoire with a six-point advantage over AS Saint-Etienne in fourth place, meaning they remain very much on course for a podium finish that would ensure a crack at next season's UEFA Champions League. However, it is second place they want, in order to qualify automatically for the group stage, yet Genesio's team trail Lille by five points with seven games remaining.

A big improvement on last weekend's performance is required, as three defeats in a row - something that has not happened to Lyon since January and February 2017 - would be disastrous. But a win here, and a defeat for Lille at home on Sunday against a Paris Saint-Germain side aiming to wrap up the title, would open up the fight for second spot again with LOSC going to the Groupama Stadium in Week 35.

Need for defensive solidity

"As always after matches, whether we win or lose, we have been working, preparing for the next game. We will keep doing that until the end of the season to try to finish second," added Genesio, who is still without injured left-back Ferland Mendy against Nantes.

"We need to get back our defensive solidity in order to get results, that is fundamental. We also know that we have the quality to create chances and score against anyone."

Lyon have not lost at the Stade de la Beaujoire in the top flight since 2008, but they were held 1-1 at home by Nantes back in September, in what turned out to be Miguel Cardoso's last game in charge of Les Canaris. Vahid Halilhodžić took his place, but after a promising start he has struggled to improve the team, albeit off-field circumstances have not helped, with the tragic death of former player Emiliano Sala casting a shadow over their season.

Nantes not safe yet

Nantes come into this weekend in 15th place after a 1-0 reverse at Toulouse last time out - that was their third league loss in a row, and their fourth in all competitions. The eight-time champions are seven points clear of the bottom three with a game in hand, so they should be fine, although they are not safe just yet.

Halilhodžić will feel they need at least one win from a run of three home games in the next 10 days, with a rearranged fixture against PSG and a meeting with Amiens coming up after this encounter.

"We are all a bit frustrated. It is a bit of a difficult situation, but we have been at fault for a lot of things when you look at the number of sendings-off or penalties we have conceded," said the 66-year-old, who will be without the suspended Andrei Girotto this weekend after the Brazilian's dismissal in Toulouse.

Dijon's win in Lyon last weekend hints at what Nantes can achieve, but the former Japan coach is wary.

"They are a Champions League team. For me, on paper they have a squad capable of competing with Paris Saint-Germain. They are an ambitious club with very good players, and when they are on form they are capable of beating Manchester City. But when things are not going so well, they can also lose at home against Dijon. The reality is that we need points and so do they."

Probable teams

Nantes: (To follow)

Lyon: (To follow)