Olympique Lyonnais and AS Monaco clash on Saturday (21:00) in Ligue 1 Uber Eats Round 10 action, with an interesting duel between Houssem Aouar and Wissam Ben Yedder, two contenders for the French national team ahead of the next World Cup.
Olympique Lyonnais-AS Monaco: a clash of ambitious Ligue 1 Uber Eats contenders, but also a duel between OL's Houssem Aouar and Monegasque Wissam Ben Yedder, two forwards with ambitions of being part of the France set-up for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
What better way to show their worth to France coach Didier Deschamps than in this classic French league match between OL and ASM in Décines-Charpieu? The match also has an air of revenge the visitors: the last meeting between the two clubs, won by OL (2-3), ended in confusion at the Stade Louis II, while Lyon had also won in Lyon earlier in the season (4-1).
Then, in April, the Monegasques qualified for the semi-finals of the French Cup by winning 0-2 in Lyon, again with some tension.
For the moment, Ben Yedder seems to be ahead of Aouar in the race for a World Cup spot. Although he didn't play, 'WBY' was present in the France squad last week for the four-team final of the Nations League, a trophy won by Les Bleus on Sunday, while Aouar disappeared from the radar after just one selection, missing several opportunities to return.
Aouar: 'Better physically'
His inconsistency, sometimes anonymous games and a supposed interest from major European clubs, which has not yet converted into a transfer, have complicated the trajectory of the 23-year-old Olympique Lyonnais midfielder in the race for the World Cup squad.
So Aouar needs to have a great season - at the level showed during the Final8 of the Champions League in August 2020 in Lisbon, where OL made it all the way to the semis, against Bayern (3-0), who went on twin the title.
"I am ready," said the silky-skilled playmaker before scoring in the 1-1 Rhône derby draw with Saint-Etienne in Round 9. "I am better and better physically and I've felt pretty good in our last games."
He had just scored a goal against Brondby in the Europa League (3-0), and these two strikes have helped to restore his confidence after several missed opportunities in previous games.
"Last season, I do not remember having played a game at 100% physically. This year we see that I am doing very well," said the player whose 2020-21 campaign was hampered by a persistent pubalgia problem. "There is also a little more joy in our play and better connections between the players."
With Peter Bosz at the helm of OL, Houssem Aouar can play as a box-to-box midfielder, a left-sided midfielder or attacking midfielder behind the centre-forward, as was the case against Les Verts on October 3, with Lucas Paqueta in the number nine role.
Ben Yedder in form
For Wissam Ben Yedder, on the other hand, confidence has not been a problem. He has already scored five goals in the league - all scored in the last four games, including a double against ASSE (3-1), on top of two assists.
"Wissam deserves to be in the national team and to have a little more playing time. But when you have Mbappé, Griezmann, Benzema, it's complicated," said AS Monaco coach Niko Kovac. "This is also true for other strikers who don't play much in the national team because of the very high quality of French football."
"I understand that Wissam is a little disappointed because he likes to play with France and to be part of the squad," added the coach. "It is very rewarding to be part of the squad of such a strong nation. He has the ambition to play in the World Cup in Qatar. It's his dream, and he has to pursue it. We will support him, help him and show him even more that we believe in him. Because he is very important for us. He always scores vital goals by. He will show it again, I am convinced."