Added spice to derby as OL and ASSE fly high
By D. Crossan
The fact that both Olympique Lyonnais and Saint-Etienne are challenging for a top-three finish this season only adds to the excitement ahead of Friday evening's Ligue 1 Conforama derby at Groupama Stadium.
OL are fourth on 24 points and will rise to second should they beat Les Verts, while victory for the visitors would lift them onto 26 points, level with second-placed LOSC. Bruno Genesio's OL could do with a timely morale booster ahead of their crunch UEFA Champions League home game against Manchester City on Tuesday. OL had the upper hand in last season's meetings, winning 5-0 at Saint-Etienne before a 1-1 draw on Lyon in Week 27 when Mathieu Debuchy netted a last-minute equaliser for the visitors.
Lopes: "It's impossible I'll ever wear ASSE colours"
Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes made his debut at home to ASSE and is poised to feature in his 10th derby. The OL youth product told OLTV: "We can't wait to fight it out with them. We're impatient to play the game and it's the first match we look out for when the fixtures are released. It's a special feeling because I lived a lot of derbies as a supporter behind the goal. There's an extreme amount of pressure and a lot at stake. We grow up with the derby. We represent a whole city and it makes me proud to be able to do that. It's impossible that I'll ever wear ASSE colours."
The 5-0 at Geoffroy-Guichard was OL's biggest ever success against their local rivals and Lopes commented: "That's my best memory of the derby and we wrote ourselves into history with that game. We've got some great matches coming up after the derby but we'll have time to think about them after Friday evening. Our start to the season hasn't been good enough, but hasn't been catastrophic either. We aspire to much better things."
ASSE: Five years without a win at OL
ASSE have gone five years without a win in Lyon and Les Verts boss Jean-Louis Gasset stated: "I hope we'll put an end to that run. That's why we do this job. Last season we came to Lyon when we weren't at our best. We started timidly because the 5-0 was in our minds. In the second half we forced them back and we managed to equalise at the death. We're closer to Lyon in the standings this season even if there's an abyssal difference in terms of the means at the clubs' disposal."
Like OL, ASSE have been up and down this season as Gasset acknowledged: "We're progressing. We're in a decent league position but we haven't played well at times. We've just won our last two home games and the on-pitch associations are starting to come together. We just need to get a result against a team higher than us in the table. We lost in Paris and we lost in Lille. Now we're going to Lyon."
Full of admiration for his opposite number, Gasset nevertheless said: "I would have advised him to stop at the end of last season because he's hurting his family. In that position when I saw my family suffering, I said 'I'm stopping'. I take my hat off to Genesio. People don't realise enough that he beat Manchester City."
Olympique Lyonnais: (to follow)
Saint-Etienne: (to follow)