Fireworks expected as Lyon head to Reims
By I. Holyman
Champagne football and a goal-filled 90 minutes can be expected when newly promoted Stade de Reims play host to Olympique Lyonnais on Friday as the pair prepare to open Week 2 with fireworks.
Stade de Reims - Olympique Lyonnais
There have been 11 goals in the duo's last two meetings at the Stade Auguste Delaune: Lyon won 4-2 in 2014/15 season, Reims triumphed 4-1 in the 2015/16 campaign, the pair's last meeting before the host's return to the top flight courtesy of their Domino's Ligue 2 title win last term.
The clubs boast 13 top-flight titles between them — Reims six, Lyon seven — and have carefully cultivated a reputation for attacking football that both of the current squads seek to uphold.
Lyon could have FIFA World Cup winner Nabil Fekir available to boost their firepower for their first away trip of the 2018/19 campaign after the France international missed the opening-day defeat of Amiens SC.
WATCH: Lyon shake off Amiens on opening day
"I'm satisfied with the three points, the win," Lyon boss Bruno Genesio said after seeing goals from Bertrand Traoré and Memphis Depay with a fine free-kick get the campaign off on the right foot.
"Our first half was rather good both in terms of how we used the ball and in our balance when we lost it. After that, we had a difficult 15 minutes where we were dominated in the middle of the second half. We didn't recover the ball well, and I think that's to do with the varying fitness of this one or that one. We were fortunate not to concede a goal, and our second goal from a set-piece made the end of the match more comfortable."
He added: "We have to be better when we aren't playing so well. You can't dominate the teams we'll play for 90 minutes so we have to go through our difficult periods in a game better."
Memphis the Magnificent
Depay's eye-catching strike suggested he has lost little of the momentum he picked up with 19 goals in 36 league games for OL last season.
"I'm happy to have scored my first goal of the season and that we won," the Netherlands international told the media before clarifying comments that had appeared to suggest he may leave the Ligue 1 side.
"If I leave Lyon, it will be to join one of the biggest clubs in the world. In France, OL is already the biggest. People wanted to make me say what I didn't say. I think each player must have a dream, that's essential, and mine is to join the biggest clubs in the world."
Reims could lay claim to that tag when they were the peers of the legendary Real Madrid side of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano in the 1950s.
Times have been much tougher in the decades since, but under coach David Guion, the Champagne-region outfit have not only brought success back but also done the reputation forged by Raymond Kopa and Co. proud.
Second only to runners-up Nîmes Olympique in goals scored last season in Domino's Ligue 2, Reims finished 15 points clear of the chasing pack to secure a return to the top flight after a two-year absence in style.
WATCH: Reims make a Nice start
With the signing of former FC Lorient and Olympique de Marseille midfielder Alaixys Romao, the club has stiffened its midfield where former France international Marvin Martin continues to be a creative presence, as he showed in their Week 1 win at OGC Nice.
"We really wanted to put in a good performance. We did that, but we mustn't get carried away. We want to keep doing things in the same way as we did last year. We again saw that we have a great attitude, and we have to keep going like that.
"We know that it's not the same as last year, it's a new season, a new league, and even more difficult, but we try to do the same things as a squad. There will be tough times, but we showed that we are united and that is our strength," explained Martin after seeing Moussa Doumbia's second-minute goal at the Allianz Riviera give Reims their points of the season.
"We know that we cannot drop off. If we make the smallest mistake, we'll pay for it. We have to be fully focussed for each game, but the squad is extraordinary, and we have to keep going in that same vein."
Reims: to follow
Lyon: to follow