Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas was full of praise for coach Rudi Garcia following the club's Champions League qualification. OL host Rennes on Sunday afternoon in the league.
Olympique Lyonnais - Stade Rennais FC
OL's stirring second-half comeback against RB Leipzig on Tuesday evening saw the club make it back-to-back qualifications for the round of 16 of the Champions League. Aulas commented to RMC Sport: "In the RB Leipzig game, Rudi Garcia gave an exceptional half-time teamtalk. Bruno Genesio also gave exceptional half-time team talks, and you'll have seen some of them. I don't know if the half-time team talk given by Rudi was behind the players' reaction but it was exceptional. I like working with Rudi Garcia and I have confidence in him. Today I'm saying he's doing good work."
OL have averaged two Ligue 1 Conforama points per game in the eight matches since Garcia took over from Sylvinho, who managed but a single point per game in his nine matches in charge. Finishing off 2019 with two league wins is crucial for Garcia and his team, who entered Week 18 three points behind third-placed LOSC and nine points back from second-placed Olympique de Marseille.
It will be fascinating to see how the OL players interact with the crowd following the incident after the RB Leipzig match which saw captain Memphis Depay involved in an altercation with a supporter who was brandishing an anti-Marcelo banner. Defending his team-mate earned the Dutch international the respect of both his coach and his president.
Garcia said: "He's a real captain, he acted and spoke as a captain. What happened showed the cohesion, unity and the character in the squad." Aulas added: "Memphis Depay demonstated he's an incredible captain who defends his team-mates."
Raphinha and Niang understanding
Rennes scored their first Europa League win of the season on Thursday night, a prestigious 2-0 home success against Lazio, admittedly achieved with the Breton club already eliminated. Defender Joris Gnagnon was the unlikely hero with a double as Julien Stéphan rotated his squad. With Europe now behind them, the Coupe de France holders head to OL striving for a fifth consecutive league win. The impressive recent run lifted Rennes to fourth in the table after Week 17, still with a game in hand on most of their top-of-the-table rivals.
Thursday's display might have given Stéphan food for thought. He said: "I asked the players to give me problems when it comes to picking the team in the next few weeks. What they did was good and now it needs to be continued for an extended period of time. The greater the competition for places, the better our level will be."
Raphinha and Mbaye Niang have struck up an excellent understanding in recent weeks and Raphinha, the summer signing from Sporting Lisbon, has now settled into the French game, being involved in five goals in Rennes' last five games, scoring three times and creating two. Stéphan commented after last week's win over Angers: "I have to pay tribute to the relationship between Raphinha and Niang is in the process of being fine-tuned. They're developing a better and better understanding."
Olympique Lyonnais: Lopes; Tete, Andersen, Denayer, Bard; Caqueret, Tousart; Reine-Adélaïde, Depay (c), Aouar; Dembélé
Rennes: Mendy; Traoré, Da Silva (c), Morel, Maouassa; Raphinha, Bourigeaud, Camavinga, Del Castillo; Hunou, Niang