Lyon look to Depay for derby with Saint-Étienne
By I. Holyman
After a stunning UEFA Champions League display in midweek, Memphis Depay and Olympique Lyonnais head to arch-rivals AS Saint-Étienne for Sunday's Rhône derby with the stakes stratospheric for both sides.
AS Saint-Étienne - Olympique Lyonnais
Depay was the chief agent provocateur as Lyon claimed an impressive 2-0 win at RB Leipzig in Wednesday's group stage game in Germany with the Netherlands international scoring in a victory that has lifted a lot of the clouds over Sylvinho's squad.
It means Lyon have lost just one of their last 13 matches in European club football's premier competition, and now they would dearly love to translate that form onto the domestic scene.
You have to go back to 2010-11 for when Lyon had collected fewer than ten points and just two wins from their opening eight matches, and it is only the second time in their history they have made such a sluggish start to a top-flight campaign.
WATCH: What happened when they met in 2018/19
The victory in Germany, however, has lightened the mood of a squad who insist they remain fully behind their beleaguered boss.
"We won and didn't concede a goal. Now we have a very important match on Sunday. We have to maintain that attitude," said Léo Dubois, who captained the side at the Red Bull Arena.
"We never gave up on the coach, we showed that [in Germany]. We believe in his project, in his approach. He tries to instill his love for football in us."
Sylvinho had made some bold moves in his team selection in Leipzig. With Jason Denayer sidelined by injury, Marcelo and Joachim Andersen were joined by Fernando Marçal in a three-man defence while Jeff Reine-Adélaïde and Moussa Dembélé started on the bench.
Dembélé, the league's joint-leading scorer, is likely to return to the starting XI, and will give the hosts nightmares after he scored a 95th-minute winner in last season's tempestuous meeting at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
Lyon know the pain of a late goal after conceding three goals after the 85th-minute in three of their last four league matches to drop valuable points and leave the seven-time Ligue 1 Conforama champions 11th, nine points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain already.
"We have let the result slip in the last few minutes in three recent games, and those sorts of things make you lose confidence, and that causes very difficult situations in the team," explained Sylvinho, who refused to single out any of his squad after their European victory.
"Depay isn't the only symbol of this win. I didn't see just one player this evening, I saw 14 exceptional players on the pitch, and four players who didn't play, but celebrated the goals just as much as the others."
If Lyon have been faltering, Saint-Étienne have been in freefall. The eight points they have on the board represents their worst return from their opening eight matches of a top-flight season since 2004-05.
It would have been even worse had they not ended a winless game of six matches with their 1-0 win at Nîmes Olympique last weekend thanks to Mathieu Debuchy's goal, though they remain second-from-bottom of the table.
That has upped the pressure on the squad while Ghislain Printant has been replaced as coach by ex-Lyon boss Claude Puel, though defender Timothée Kolodziejczak saw positives in Thursday's 1-1 UEFA Europa League group-stage draw with Wolfsburg, Printant's final game in charge.
"We played well. It had been a long time that we had been wanting to deliver such a performance," said the ex-OGC Nice man, who also previously played for Lyon. "It's one of our best games since the start of the season. We never gave up, but we should have been more clinical in the opposition penalty box. In terms of intensity, we were up for it and we showed good things."
Lyon: to follow
Saint-Étienne: to follow