What: French Ligue 1
Who: Lille vs Lyon
When: Sunday 23rd September, 2012, at 20:00 UK Time
Where: Grande Stade Lille, Lille, France
Champions League Nightmare for Lille
Lille come into this match on the back of a disastrous opening to their Champions League campaign. A 3-1 home defeat to the supposedly weakest team in their group, BATE Borisov, will have been the nightmare result coach Rudi Garcia feared beforehand. The Lille boss said afterwards that the score was an “accident” and he will hope he is right to make that assertion given this crucial Ligue 1 clash.
Les Dogues, champions in 2011, have won just one of their first five games of the season domestically and come into this game seven points behind Lyon. Scoring has been the problem so far for Garcia’s team, whose defenders have netted as many as their forwards. So far Dimitri Payet has looked Lille’s most lethal forward, but he is inconsistent, whilst Tulio de Melo is more of a squad player than a regular goalscorer. Most concerning of all the forwards is Nolan Roux, who still has not scored since April, but who has played all five league games so far this season.
Despite their troubles, Lille’s trademark possession game has been in evidence, but they have struggled to create clear cut chances in some matches and when there are opportunities, poor finishing has let them down too often. Lille must fix that for the visit of Lyon, or Garcia could be pondering a second home loss in less than a week.
Positive Start for Les Gones
In contrast to their opponents, Lyon have goalscorers in abundance. The usual suspects, Bafetimbi Gomis and Lisandro Lopez, are their usual prolific selves and both struck as Lyon won their opening Europa League game against Sparta Prague. The ever reliable Michel Bastos also already has three to his name. Alexandre Lacazette and Jimmy Briand have yet to get on the scoresheet this season, but are also significant threats going forward; the pair have helped fire Remi Garde’s outfit to what has been a hugely encouraging start to the season. Four wins and a draw have been achieved already, although this is the first really tough test for Lyon.
While the side’s strikers score, another hugely encouraging sign for Lyon is the increased solidity of their defence. An Achilles heel in recent times, veteran Cris has departed and the arrivals of Fabian Monzon and Milan Bisevac from Nice and Paris Saint-Germain respectively have added quality and class to the backline. And all this in spite of the high profile sale of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to Tottenham. With Aly Cissokho and Kim Kallstrom also departing, change is in the air at the Stade Gerland, but Garde is managing it effectively, with a clutch of talented youngsters underpinning the team’s development. A trip north to Lille will be the first real test of Lyon’s title credentials however.
Lille 1-2 PSG (02/09; Ligue 1)
Troyes 1-1 Lille (15/09; Ligue 1)
Lille 1-3 BATE Borisov (19/09; Champions League)
Lyon 3-2 Valenciennes (01/09; Ligue 1)
Lyon 2-0 Ajaccio (16/09; Ligue 1)
Lyon 2-1 Sparta Prague (20/09; Europa League)
Lille: Marvin Martin
Lyon: Yoann Gourcuff; Mouhamadou Dabo
Players to watch
Lille – Dimitri Payet: With Martin out for the next few weeks the creative burden may end up falling on the shoulders of the former Saint-Etienne forward. Payet did not produce his best often enough last season for Lille but he has made an encouraging start to this campaign. The 25-year-old has been the team’s key goalscoring threat and involved in more than half of Les Dogues’ goals in Ligue 1. Payet shone as the focal attacking point for former side Les Verts and he may revel in the pressure of being the man Lille now look towards to kick start their ailing season
Lyon – Clement Grenier: Lille will look to impose their possession based style of play on Lyon and Garde’s side will therefore have to be efficient and composed on the ball. Key to that will be the talented youngster Grenier, who has shown real signs of progress this season as he begins to justify his potential. His creativity and passing ability from midfield will be pivotal to Lyon’s hopes and he will be the main player looking to create chances for the likes of Gomis and Lopez. A good performance here would cement his burgeoning reputation.
Lille, as is their way, should enjoy plenty of possession. They will also be determined to put on a good showing to make up for the disastrous defeat to BATE. But the big question mark is still going forward and in particular when will Roux score. Against tight defences Lille can look as though short of ideas when approaching the opposition penalty area and an improved Lyon defence should make things difficult for them.
However, Lyon will come on to Lille and try to impose their own game, so there should be enough space for Lille to exploit. The other question is how well they can keep out Les Gones at the other end. Garde’s side’s superior firepower and their pace could be perfectly suited to countering against Lille, as BATE did so effectively in the week. Lyon can inflict yet more misery on Les Dogues here. Lille 1-3 Lyon.
Read betting previews and tips at Inside Bet