Tino Kadewere hopes to be able to "help the team" as stumbling Lyon take on in-form Ligue 1 Uber Eats outfit Monaco in Saturday's late kick-off.
LYON vs MONACO (kick-off 9pm CEST)
Kadewere has played just 24 minutes of top-flight football for OL this season with the Zimbabwe international missing his club's last six league matches with a leg injury limiting his contribution. He rejected a call-up from his country to spend this month's international break working on his fitness, and the 25-year-old striker is now raring to go.
"I took advantage of the international break to recover. I stayed in Lyon to prepare the next game," he explained. "I'm very happy. Last season was quite difficult, especially after my operation. I'm motivated, I feel better, and I'm ready to help the team."
The former Le Havre man's return to fitness could not have been timed better with Lyon coach Peter Bosz without the injured Moussa Dembélé and Islam Slimani. With Lucas Paqueta and Bruno Guimaraes only returning to France on Friday following Brazil's FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Bosz is without a number of first-team regulars as he looks to his team to improve on a run of just one win from their last four top-flight outings that has left the seven-time French champions in mid-table.
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"We deserve to be there. At the start of the season, we played badly and didn't pick up a lot of points. But it's improved since. We have improved, especially in terms of our style. The pressing is better, we lose the ball less. We have been a little unlucky in some games, but we're playing better, we're close to the European places," said the Dutchman, who has first-choice goalkeeper Anthony Lopes suspended though full-back Emerson returns from a ban.
"I watched a lot of their games early in the season. They were dominant, played well, pressed well, but couldn't score. They conceded avoidable goals, but they're a good team. I enjoyed watching them play."
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Monaco did make a slow start, but have picked up steam in recent weeks and are in sixth place — just two points off third — coming into the weekend after an unbeaten four-game run in the league in which they have won their last three.
With Sofiane Diop and Aurélien Tchouaméni suspended and Chile international Guillermo Maripan only returning late from World Cup qualifying duty, Niko Kovac will have to shuffle his side to take on an opponent he remains cautious of despite current form.
"We're expecting a big match in a full stadium. I think we're close to a lot of teams behind PSG, and Lyon are one of them. As usual, we'll go there to win," said Kovac, who is also without injured duo Djibril Sidibé and Cesc Fabregas.
"Peter Bosz is a very good coach. I expect a difficult game. He likes playing high up the pitch. I remember his run to the Europa League final with Ajax. I played against him many times in the Bundesliga and I like the style of play he puts in place. They have a better side this season than last, I'd say, but sometimes it takes time to put things in place. Their current position doesn't reflect the level of their team. I'm not worried about them. I just hope they don't click into gear against us."
Lyon: Pollersbeck; Dubois (cap.), Boateng, Denayer, Emerson; T.Mendes, Caqueret; Shaqiri, Aouar, Toko Ekambi (or Cherki); Kadewere (or Toko Ekambi).
Monaco: Nübel; Aguilar, Disasi, Badiashile; G.Martins, J.Lucas, Fofana, Caio Henrique; Volland, Ben Yedder (cap.), Golovin.