Olympique Lyonnais are hoping to build on their midweek Cup success when they host RC Strasbourg Alsace on Sunday, with new signing Bruno Guimarães finally having joined up with his new teammates.
Olympique Lyonnais v RC Strasbourg Alsace (Sunday at 1500 CET)
Lyon remain alive in four competitions after Houssem Aouar’s late goal secured a 1-0 win over Olympique de Marseille in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France on Wednesday. A last-four tie at home to Paris Saint-Germain will follow in early March, while OL also have the Coupe de la Ligue final against PSG to look forward to at the start of April. Before those dates, they entertain Juventus in their UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg on February 26.
It is, if nothing else, a fascinating and busy time to be a Lyon fan. However, Rudi Garcia’s side are not the favourites in any of these competitions, and the league is their bread and butter. Yet OL ended last weekend in a lowly ninth place in the Ligue 1 Conforama standings, eight points adrift of the top three. They are also three points behind their opponents at the Groupama Stadium on Sunday, and an improvement is needed if Lyon are to qualify for a 24th consecutive European campaign.
OL have taken just one point from their last three league outings, defeats away at OGC Nice (2-1) and in Paris (4-2) coming either side of a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Amiens SC. Nevertheless, the arrival of Guimarães gives the whole club a lift. The 22-year-old, who becomes the club’s 21st Brazilian player, has arrived from Athletico Paranaense on a four-and-a-half-year deal, with OL paying €20 million to secure 80 percent of his rights. Signed in the January window, he only arrived by the banks of the Rhône this week after captaining Brazil at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Colombia.
“Bruno is a player who will tidy up certain situations for us. He is a player who sees quickly, who sees things before others,” said Lyon’s sporting director Juninho. “I said at the start of the season that we needed someone different to Lucas (Tousart). Bruno is just that, a different type of midfielder. He goes to get the ball from his defenders and will take more risks. If we can play through pressure and into the opposition half, then we will progress. That is why we are ninth. We are struggling to control games, especially at home.”
'Already feel at home'
The player himself, who attended the Marseille win, has put his decision to come to Lyon down to the powers of persuasion of Juninho, saying: “He called my family and agents. He was sincere and loyal. He presented a great project to me. That is what made me want to come to Lyon. I have a Spanish passport so I could have gone to La Liga. I could have gone to Benfica or Atlético Madrid, but I already feel at home here and I am delighted with my decision.”
His involvement in Olympic qualifying means Guimarães is fit and ready to make his debut, which is great news for Garcia. The Lyon coach was without seven players in midweek due to injury or suspension, with Marcelo and Jean Lucas - two more members of the Brazilian contingent - both banned. While Memphis Depay, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde and young defender Oumar Solet are out for the season, full-backs Léo Dubois and Youssouf Koné will soon be available again.
Strasbourg in form
Strasbourg travel fresh from a free midweek, and in excellent shape having won their last two league outings, following a 1-0 win at Toulouse FC by beating Stade de Reims 3-0 at the Stade de la Meinau last time out with Alexander Djiku and recent recruit Majeed Waris both scoring before Kenny Lala added a late penalty.
Thierry Laurey’s team were 17th in the table after 12 games. However, they have won eight of their 12 games since then, including six of their last eight. Only PSG and Marseille have picked up more points in the last three months than Strasbourg, who also average two goals a game over their last 12 outings.
“We have a good group of players and I think we only need two more victories to secure survival,” said Racing stalwart Dimitri Liénard. “Then we can start to aim higher.”
However, Strasbourg have selection issues this weekend, with both full-back Lionel Carole and talented young midfielder Ibrahima Sissoko suspended alongside Abdallah Ndour. Sanjin Prcic, Anthony Caci and Benjamin Corgnet are all in the treatment room.
Lyon: Lopes; Rafael, Marcelo, Denayer, Marçal; Tousart, Mendes, Aouar; Toko Ekambi, Dembélé, Cornet
Strasbourg: Sels; Simakan, Koné, Mitrovic, Lala; Bellegarde, Djiku, Liénard; Thomasson; Waris, Ajorque