Lyon and Lille in action before Champions League bow
By I. Holyman
Olympique Lyonnais and LOSC Lille raise the curtain on Ligue 1 Conforama Week 5 on Friday with both the UEFA Champions League hopefuls in action ahead of the start of their European challenge.
Amiens SC v Olympique Lyonnais (kick-off 20:45CEST)
Lyon head to Picardy having failed to win their last two league games, though they do possess an ace up their sleeve in Memphis Depay. The Netherlands international was brilliant in picking up his 50th cap for his country during the international break, continuing in the same vein of form that has seen him score four goals and register one assist in league action this season.
However, his match-defining displays for his country could see Lyon coach Sylvinho give his star forward a breather on the bench and return Moussa Dembélé to the front of the visitors' attack ahead of Tuesday's group-stage opener against Zenit St. Petersburg.
"I'm mulling over Memphis, who played two times 90 minutes with the Netherlands, and Leo [Dubois], who played with France on Tuesday. We'll see, but I'll put out the strongest team possible."
WATCH: Depay doubles up against Angers
Jason Denayer picked up a slight injury while featuring for Belgium, but is expected to captain the side. Though Youssouf Koné and Thiago Mendes are both suspended, Houssem Aouar trained normally on Wednesday after an adductor injury and is in contention to play.
Amiens have picked up just one win all season, and were beaten in each of their four encounters with Lyon last term. Saman Ghoddos is suspended until January following a FIFA ruling, but Luka Elsner could give a debut to former Lille defender Aurélien Chedjou, who was signed late in the transfer window.
"He will give us stability," explained the Amiens boss of the ex-Cameroon international centre-back. "He's someone who transmits calm, a lot of serenity, and has experience and quality with the ball at his feet. He has great positional sense and anticipation, and a mentality of keeping a clean sheet. He's also a good talker. He's a big help in that position, we're happy he's come in."
Amiens: to follow
Lyon: to follow
LOSC Lille v Angers SCO (kick-off 19:00CEST)
Lille will be relieved their final league match before they return to the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2012 is at home. Last season's Ligue 1 Conforama runners-up have a 100 per cent winning record at the Stade Pierre Mauroy this season, but equally have been 'perfect' on the road, losing both times — to Amiens and Reims — without scoring.
Galtier's preparations for the visit of fourth-placed Angers, who have won three of their opening four matches to come into the game level on points with leaders Paris Saint-Germain, have been hampered with 12 of his first-team squad away on international duty.
"I've had only a third of my squad available during the international break," explained Christophe Galtier, whose team begin their UEFA Champions League group stage campaign at Ajax on Tuesday. "It's not ideal to prepare for Angers, but that's a first-world problem. We get our players back late. But we have taken advantage of every moment to talk about strategy, do video analysis."
WATCH: Lille beaten at Reims
One of the returning internationals, Turkey midfielder Yusuf Yazici, is suspended following his red card at Reims while Adama Soumaoro and Timothy Weah are still both sidelined by injury. Xeka and Loïc Rémy, however, could return after recovering from their own injury concerns.
Galtier will also be hopeful Jonathan Ikoné will be able to ride the wave of his first senior cap and goal for France to give Lille a boost before the short but testing trip to Amsterdam.
"I was surprised by his call-up. I'd heard nothing," admitted the Lille coach of his former PSG and Montpellier forward, who struck shortly after coming off the bench to make his debut for Les Bleus against Albania before starting Tuesday's UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier against Andorra.
"I'm very happy he got called up, but also the fact he scored and started a game. That's great for only his second match. Regardless of the quality of the opposition. They're important EURO qualifiers. If he started the match, it's because he must have sent very positive signals to the coach."
Lille: to follow
Angers: to follow