OL-ASM: Acid test
Olympique Lyonnais play host to AS Monaco on Saturday evening in what could prove the most important 90 minutes for both clubs this season.
Olympique Lyonnais - AS Monaco
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OL come into the game in second place, but their grip on Ligue 1's second automatic ticket for the UEFA Champions League group stage is only as strong as their goal difference, which is better - albeit considerably - than Monaco's, who occupy third place.
Bedimo: 'No stress'
"Monaco will let us have the ball. We'll have to be very alert, because they are very quick on the counter-attack," OL full-back Henri Bedimo explained. "They have top-quality players who have won in other leagues, but they are more a compact group that is comfortable away from home. We want to play, go forward. Our squad is used to playing for something at the end of a season. There's no stress even though we know it'll be a very tough game. You can't say it'll be a game just like any other."
"I think that it will quite simply be a very high-level match, a high intensity encounter with perhaps a bit of extra pressure on OL, who will be playing at home," former OL and Monaco defender Eric Abidal told OLTV. "I don't find it shocking in the least that it's these two clubs fighting it out for second behind PSG. They both have huge histories and a lot of experience in these season run-ins. It's a great thing for our championship that OL and ASM are stepping up."
OL certainly have stepped things up since the turn of the year. After an underwhelming first half of the campaign, the seven-time French champions have eased into overdrive under coach Bruno Génésio, putting together a run of form that is the envy of the entire division bar title-winners Paris Saint-Germain. They are unbeaten in nine games, and have lost just once in their last 13 L1 outings.
They have proven formidably difficult opponents at home, particularly since moving to their state-of-the-art Parc OL after the winter break. They are unbeaten in nine league games in their new home, winning seven of them, the last of which came with a 2-1 victory over GFC Ajaccio in Week 36.
Jardim: 'The most important thing is the victory'
Génésio's men will need that solid platform on which to play, however, against a Monaco side that loves life away from home. They have the second-best away record in the division, though they have picked up just one victory in their last eight away outings in all competitions.
That unimpressive record is symptomatic of a wobble in form that allowed OL to close on them and challenge for a second place that once looked destined to be theirs. Monaco have righted the ship in recent weeks, however, putting together an unbeaten run that was extended to three games courtesy of last weekend's 3-2 victory over En Avant Guingamp.
"The score does not reflect the game. A difference of two or three goals would have been more realistic," insisted Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim. "Guingamp scored two goals with luck, not deliberate construction. We controlled the game, we scored goals and had two or three more chances. This is a deserved success, we gave emotion to the fans. The team tried to combine well and play the ball. The most important thing is the victory."