Monaco test for Champions League hopefuls OL
By D. Crossan
Having held Barcelona in midweek, Olympique Lyonnais head to in-form Monaco in Ligue 1 Conforama on Sunday evening.
OL rode their luck at times against Barça in the first leg of the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening but also forced Marc-André ter Stegen to make the save of the match when the German pushed a fearsome Martin Terrier shot onto the crossbar early on.
With the second leg not until March 13, OL's immediate focus is on maintaining the challenge for a second-placed finish to guarantee automatic entry to the group stage of next season's Champions League. OL are still involved in the Coupe de France too and on Wednesday will host Caen in the quarter-finals.
Genesio links up with Zahavi
More positive results will boost coach Bruno Genesio's case for a contract extension with Jean-Michel Aulas, the club president, having revealed that a decision will be made by the end of March. Genesio told RMC Sport he has started working with renowned agent Pini Zahavi: "Yes, that's true. I want to surround myself with competent and professional people and I think it's the right moment to do it. There's no desire on my behalf to prepare for a departure, I'm simply preparing myself for every eventuality. My desire is t continue at Lyon. I have everything I need here in order to be happy in my work."
Genesio welcomes back captain Nabil Fekir from domestic suspension and will hope his side defend as resolutely as they did against Barcelona, when goalkeeper Anthony Lopes made a large contribution to his 10th clean sheet in 37 matches in all competitions this season, and a first in the Champions League.
Belgian international Jason Denayer put in a man-of-the-match performance at the heart of the defence despite having been doubtful for the game with a groin injury and the former Manchester City defender could have an important role to play on Sunday to counteract Monaco's improving attack.
Seven points from three games for improving Monaco
With Gelson Martins, the loan signing from Atlético Madrid, particularly impressive the Principality club have collected seven points from their last three outings to rise to 16th in the table. Leonardo Jardim's return as coach has made an impact as have judicious signings in the January transfer window.
Jardim, removed from his position in October only to return just over three months later, commented after Martins scored the winner at home to Nantes last Saturday: "We're not thinking about 16th place or 18th place. The objective is to take as mant points as the best clubs in France. If we manage to do that then we'll stay up. We still have 39 points to play for and all the matches will be war."
Full-back Djibril Sidibé added: "With the quality we have in our squad we say to ourselves we can't stay in the position we find ourselves in. We need to put the effort in and make our statements on the field. Individually and collectively we have upped our game. I think everyone has lifted their standard by 10, 20 or 30% and that has shown through. There's also the contribution of the new players as they've done us a lot of good."
Monaco: Subasic – Sidibé, Glik, B.Badiashile, Ballo-Touré – Silva, Fabregas – Martins, Golovin, Lopes – Falcao (cap)
Lyon: Lopes – Dubois, Marcelo (cap), Denayer, Mendy – Ndombélé, Tousart, Aouar – Traoré, Dembélé, Terrier