Olympique Lyonnais coach Bruno Genesio has warned his in-form side against complacency as they play host to FC Nantes at the Groupama Stadium on Saturday in the ongoing fight for Ligue 1 Conforama podium places.
Olympique Lyonnais - FC Nantes
While Paris Saint-Germain have the title wrapped up, the battle behind them for UEFA Champions League qualification is a thrilling one. AS Monaco remain second despite recent slip-ups, but they are now just a point ahead of both OL and Olympique de Marseille, with that trio scrapping for two spots on the podium and in Europe's elite club competition as a result.
Lyon have the best goal difference of the three, and are also in the best form just now. They are unbeaten in nine Ligue 1 Conforama matches and have won six on the bounce, scoring 19 goals in the process. Last week they were 5-2 winners away to Dijon FCO, the fifth time this season that they have scored five goals on their travels. That means they come into this home clash with Claudio Ranieri's Nantes in fine fettle.
But a cautious Genesio said: "We are focusing on the four matches we have left. The most important thing is our preparation for these matches. We must not relax. We have one month and we want to have a reward at the end of it.
"We should be confident having won six matches in a row but we must also not get carried away because over-confidence can cost you at the top level. If we win our last four matches we will be on the podium," he added.
Genesio has been sweating on the fitness of Mariano Díaz, Lyon's leading league scorer with 18 goals. However, skipper Nabil Fekir marked his first start after a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury by scoring a superb goal in Burgundy, and Memphis Depay netted again in that game, leaving him with six in his last five outings.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Anthony Lopes will feature for the final time this season before beginning a three-match ban handed down following incidents at the end of the 3-2 win in Marseille last month. Perennial back-up Mathieu Gorgelin will replace him for the remaining matches.
"I have spoken to Anthony because it is his last match," said Genesio. "He needs to think about this match and not the ones he will miss. He is ready. It is important that he remains close to the group and to Mathieu. We will see after the match. We are making progress playing against teams who defend deep and we need to confirm that on Saturday."
Ranieri: 'We are going to fight'
Nantes held Lyon to a goalless draw when the sides last met back in August and they desperately need something from this game to keep alive their prospects of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League. Sixth place could yet be enough, as long as PSG win the Coupe de France final against third-tier Les Herbiers early next month, but Les Canaris have been losing ground throughout 2018 after sitting in fifth spot over the winter break.
Indeed, only three clubs have picked up fewer points than Nantes in the second half of the season, while the likes of OGC Nice, AS Saint-Etienne, Stade Rennais FC and Montpellier Hérault SC have all kept up their challenges.
Last weekend's 1-1 derby draw with Rennes at a packed Stade de la Beaujoire left Nantes with only one win in 11. Adrien Thomasson gave them a first-half lead, but they failed to hold on after the break following the sending-off of Emiliano Sala.
"Lyon are a great side who are fighting for second place. They have good players and are playing well, but we are ready to play our game. We have four matches left, 12 points to play for. We will see what happens but we are going to fight. Our conscience has to be clear that we have done everything we can," said Ranieri, who must make do without 12-goal leading scorer Sala due to suspension here.
"He is a very important player for us, but I never say that we are missing a player. I think about those who are available and we will play a good game against Lyon with them," insisted the Italian.
Lyon: Lopes; Rafael, Marcelo, Morel, Mendy; Ndombele, Tousart, Aouar; Fekir; Depay, Traoré
Nantes: Tatarusanu; Dubois, Djidji, Awaziem, Pallois, Lima; Iloki, Touré, Rongier, Thomasson; Nakoulma