PSG braced for toughest test in Lyon
By A. Scott
Morale is high in the Paris Saint-Germain camp after their Champions League demolition of Real Madrid, but the capital club now go to Olympique Lyonnais for a fixture that has been their toughest test domestically in recent years.
Olympique Lyonnais - Paris Saint-Germain
Paris enjoyed a fantastic start to their latest European campaign as two goals from Ángel Di María and a late Thomas Meunier strike gave them a 3-0 victory over Madrid at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday. It was a result which set Thomas Tuchel's side up perfectly in their group and was all the more remarkable given that Neymar Jr, Kyliab Mbappé and Edinson Cavani were all absent.
"It was a great performance against a great team," said midfielder Idrissa Gueye, who was showered with praise for his display in midfield alongside Marquinhos and Marco Verratti.
However, that result came as a surprise to many observers after a slightly sluggish start to their domestic campaign, at least in terms of performances. PSG ended last weekend on top of the Ligue 1 Conforama table with 12 points from a possible 15 after Neymar's stunning overhead kick in stoppage time secured a 1-0 win over RC Strasbourg Alsace, but Thomas Tuchel's team did not convince prior to that moment of magic.
Highlights: Neymar scores late stunner to beat Strasbourg
Meanwhile, they have lost five of their last seven away league outings and now they head to the Groupama Stadium for what is almost always their toughest fixture of the season.
Paris have lost 2-1 in Lyon in each of the last two seasons and on three out of four visits to OL's modern home, the exception being a 2-1 victory in November 2016.
Since the Qatari takeover of 2011 which has transformed PSG into one of Europe's most powerful clubs, they have won just twice in eight visits to Lyon in the league. And going back even further, there have been only three away wins in this particular fixture in the last quarter of a century.
The right time?
It is quite possible, however, that this is a good time to be facing Lyon. After winning their opening two league games of the season under new their new Brazilian management team of coach Sylvinho and sporting director Juninho, OL have taken just two points from a possible nine.
Highlights: Lyon held at Amiens
Last weekend they conceded in stoppage time to draw 2-2 away at Amiens SC and they did not get the start they were looking for in the Champions League either, requiring a Memphis Depay penalty to draw 1-1 with Russian champions Zenit in their opening match on Tuesday.
MCN on way back
"The Champions League is the top level and we didn't do enough," admitted OL goalkeeper Anthony Lopes after that encounter against a Zenit side whose coach, Sergei Semak, came off the bench for PSG in a 1-0 win in Lyon in 2005. Sunday's game is, unmistakably, another Champions League-level game for them.
It remains to be seen what starting line-up Sylvinho sends out after he notably left Houssem Aouar on the bench against Zenit. Alongside him was Maxwel Cornet, who this week signed a contract extension keeping him at the club until 2023. "It was important for my progression as a player to be able to continue with OL. I want to win something with this club. That is what we are now working towards," Cornet said.
Paris can welcome back Neymar after he served the first game of a two-match European ban in midweek, while Cavani and Mbappé are recovering fitness. The 'MCN' could soon be reunited on the pitch. Colin Dagba, Julian Draxler and Thilo Kehrer are on the sidelines, however.
Lyon: Lopes; Marcelo, Andersen, Denayer; Dubois, Thiago Mendes, Koné; Reine-Adélaïde, Aouar; Dembélé, Depay
Paris SG: Navas; Meunier, T. Silva, Diallo, Bernat; Gueye, Marquinhos, Verratti; Di Maria, Choupo-Moting, Neymar