Sunday, September 27, 2020

Lyon is banking on the Football League Cup

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Nineteen years after their first and last victory in the Coupe de la Ligue, Olympique Lyonnais (OL) has perhaps never wanted victory so much in this competition which is about to disappear. In case of coronation Friday July 31 in the final, the Rhone club, which finished 7e of the truncated 2019-2020 Ligue 1 season, would manage to clinch a qualification for a European Cup in extremis, painfully going through the preliminary rounds of the Europa League.

Above all, the players of President Jean-Michel Aulas would win their first title since 2012, an eternity on the scale of a club used to winning in the 2000s. This motivation – defender Marcelo spoke of the “Most important game of the season” during an interview with Progress – falls at the peak when the state of mind could be quite different in his opponent.

PSG, winner but bruised by the ankle injury of its star Kylian Mbappé a week ago in the Coupe de France final, already has an overflowing trophy cabinet. The Parisians are the record winners in the two cups: 13 for the “Old Lady” and 8 for the “condemned”.

Read also Paris-Saint-Germain wins the Coupe de France but limps with Mbappé

With a new Ligue 1 – Coupe de France double in their pocket, Paris could have only one goal in mind: to focus on the quarterfinals to come, on August 12, of the Champions League to finally overcome this cap – the last time was in 1995 – and, why not, “Dream bigger”, as the motto of the Qatari owners proclaimed when they arrived in 2011.

Set up due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the formula of a Final 8 for the flagship European competition (without return matches for the quarterfinals and semi-finals) leaves the wildest hopes. Under these conditions, we can imagine that the meeting planned in Lisbon against the Italians of Bergamo is of capital importance for the Parisians, compared to yet another League Cup final.

Avoid new injuries

“The objective of Paris, having won the Coupe de France, is the Champions League now. Lyon’s first objective is to qualify for the European Cup. The psychological aspect can play a role, especially with what happened to Mbappé, some Parisian players risk being spared ”, summarizes Christophe Pélissier, coach of the promoted Lorient.

The injury of the French world champion, who should keep him three weeks away from the field, marked the minds of his teammates, staff but also Parisian supporters. All are obsessed with the prestigious European deadline, and none want to see Neymar, the other star of PSG, get injured, for example, against his rough compatriots Marçal, Rafael or Marcelo.

Cleverly, the latter played on the ambiguity by evoking the former Barça player: “I’ll respect him, after it’s not a fight, it’s an honest duel. If I stay focused on my work, I can have a good match ”, warned the Lyon defender before mentioning the tackle from Stéphanois Loïc Perrin, at fault on Mbappé: “Sometimes you want the ball and it doesn’t work. Football is like that. It’s a serious injury for Mbappé, but Perrin didn’t do it on purpose, he tried to touch the ball. It could pass. “

Former coach of Amiens in Ligue 1, an elite that he will find next season with FC Lorient, Christophe Pélissier thinks that the Lyonnais have more assets than the Stéphanois to annoy PSG. “To beat Paris, you have to put a lot of intensity with and without the ball, which does not mean aggression. With Saint-Etienne, there was a real difference in level which allowed Paris to win without making a great match, he advances. Lyon is still something else. If PSG does not have the psychological weapons to fight 100%, it will be in big trouble. “

“The absence of a player is not enough to weaken” PSG

Hanging on to his 5-3-2 against the big teams, who has only really succeeded once this season in 8e in the Champions League first leg against Juventus (1-0), OL coach Rudi Garcia should not change his tactics despite Mbappé’s package. “If there is no Mbappé, there is Neymar. If there is no Neymar, there is Icardi. If there is no Icardi, there is Di Maria. This Paris-Saint-Germain team has a lot of very good players, the absence of a player is not enough to weaken it ”, he said Sunday on Europe 1.

After an unconvincing victory in the last preparation match in Antwerp (3-2), Rudi Garcia had also justified in a funny way the bad second period, claiming that his team had voluntarily left the ball to the Belgians to simulate the probable Parisian possession.

Not being more ambitious in the game could be a strategic mistake for OL

Anticipating the fact that we will suffer in the face of the quality of PSG is one thing, not being more ambitious in the game could be a strategic mistake. “Without Mbappé who attacks spaces in an incredible way and while Icardi does not like depth, Lyon risks going for Paris higher. Against Saint-Etienne, PSG did not perform well in the ball exit, Pelissier analysis. However, when you face such world-class players, if your “pressing” [technique qui vise à isoler le porteur du ballon] is less coordinated, that you leave 1 meter, they can hurt you between the lines. You have to find a balance between playing 90 minutes Paris in “pressing” mode or conversely in low defensive block mode. [retranché dans sa moitié de terrain]. “

The intensity and the famous aggressiveness will certainly not be enough, even in the face of Parisians who have their heads elsewhere. Lyon will have to impose their style in the wake of their Dutch striker Memphis Depay, back in great shape after six months of hiatus. It will be time, then, to also think about the Champions League, and the 8e return final scheduled in Turin on August 7. A second peak in a week for OL, more eager than ever to make people forget a season that has so far been chaotic.

Read also Scandal, surprises and failures: a look back at the great moments in the Coupe de la Ligue final

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