After Paris Saint-Germain’s flat Champions League display in a 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund last week, some honour was restored to Ligue 1 on Wednesday as Lyon turned in a performance that few thought they were capable of to secure a 1-0 win over Juventus at home.
Lucas Tousart’s first-half goal, which followed fine play from the impressive Houssem Aouar, has given Rudi Garcia’s side an unexpected advantage, and while there is little doubt that Juve remain the favourites ahead of the return match in Turin, the French side have at least given themselves a chance.
They will hope that both the result and performance act as aa catalyst to better things in the weeks ahead as they turn their attentions to improving on their miserable mid-table position in France – starting with a derby meeting with Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
Ligue 1 Match of the Weekend: Lyon vs Saint-Etienne
It was the Rhone-Alpes derby in October that spelt the end for Sylvinho’s short reign in charge of OL, and while Garcia has successfully lifted some of the mounting pressure on his shoulders thanks to the midweek success, there is little doubt that there is much riding on this encounter for two underperforming teams.
Lyon have shown themselves capable of rising to the biggest occasion in the cups in recent weeks, also knocking Marseille out of the Coupe de France earlier this month, but when it has come to the league, performances remain unpredictable, particularly at home, where they have won on four times this season.
And this fixture comes plum in the midst of their most testing run of the season, which sees them play both PSG and Lille in vital matches over the next seven days. With an injury-hit squad, Lyon are set to be pushed to the limits.
Saint-Etienne, meanwhile, are ailing, too. With numerous leaders of their team absent, including Loic Perrin, Romain Hamouma and Wahbi Khazri, the last thing they needed was a spat between head coach Claude Puel and goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier. Yet as it was announced that the out-of-form custodian would be dropped after poor performance, his agent exploded in the media, serving only to fuel the discontent that is rife around the Forez outfit.
With only four points from their last 10 matches, Saint-Etienne are in trouble and they desperately need something positive from the derby.
Rest of the Weekend
Marseille kick off the weekend on Friday night with a short trip to face Nimes away from home. OM lost to Nantes last time out and are seeking to bounce back against an opponent that have won four of their last five matches to ease their relegation fears.
PSG are then in action in Saturday’s early kick-off with what should be a routine home match against Dijon, before the highlight of the later kick offs sees Monaco tackle Reims at home in an important encounter for the European race.
Montpellier host Strasbourg as they jostle for position behind the top four, while Rennes will expect to go to rock-bottom Toulouse and get a win.
There are vital relegation match ups scheduled for Saturday, too. Amiens host Metz desperately needing maximum points, while Brest and Angers tussle.
Sunday opens with Nantes playing host to in-form Lille, though les Canaris are buoyed by their win over Marseille last weekend. Underperformers Nice and Bordeaux meet in the west later in the day before the evening sees Lyon’s big derby match with Sainté.
Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Marquinhos – Paris Saint-Germain – £1.38
PSG have been reliant on set pieces to score goals in recent weeks, with Marquinhos one of the greatest benefactors. He scored twice in last weekend’s 4-3 home win over Bordeaux to scoop Match Day Dividends and with Thiago Silva out injured he is likely to start again either in midfield, where Marco Verratti is banned, or the heart of the defence against Dijon.
Although Dijon beat PSG in the league earlier this season, the champions exacted revenge with a 6-1 win in the Coupe de France earlier this year and will be eager to repeat those exploits on Saturday. The Brazil international is set to be central to that effort.