Ligue 1 Match of the Week Preview: AS Saint Etienne vs. Olympique Lyonnais
Sunday 10th November 20:00
OL put their excellent recent record at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on the line on Sunday evening when they face Saint-Etienne in the derby du Rhône. OL are unbeaten in their last 13 Ligue 1 visits to Les Verts, winning the last five encounters there. Saint-Etienne last finished above OL in the L1 table in 1992-1993 when they were seventh to OL’s 14th and Christophe Galtier’s squad must see this season as an excellent opportunity to repeat the feat. ASSE entered Week 13 in seventh place on 18 points, three points and five places above their local rivals. Galtier, though, will be without centre-half Kurt Zouma until January after the LFP’s disciplinary commission handed down a ten-match ban following his red card against Sochaux when a nasty challenge on Thomas Guerbert left the Les Lionceaux midfielder with a fractured leg and ankle. Zouma’s extended absence should afford the powerful Moustapha Bayal a run in the side alongside captain Loïc Perrin. Bayal’s Ligue1 debut was in a 2-1 loss to OL in October 2006 and the defender is well aware of the importance of the fixture to supporters of both clubs.
“Down the seasons I have become conscious of just how important this match is. There is a long history between the two clubs and it’s a unique match which we want to win above all. We all remember the win in the 100th derby at the Gerland. Lyon have won these matches very often, sometimes with a bit of luck. In recent derbies we’ve been at their level and have budged them around. It’s coming and we can win. Our motivation and concentration need to be at extreme levels and we have to play with total commitment from the first to the last minute. Our strongest suit is our ability to accelerate the game. As against Paris we must start strongly but this time we must finish strongly too.
OL coach Rémi Garde left the entire team that started last weekend’s 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Guingamp at home when the rest of the squad travelled to Croatia for midweek Europa League action. OL drew 1-1 and stand second in Group I and Garde was encouraged by the performances of Yoann Gourcuff, Gaël Danic, Bakary Koné and Miguel Lopes as they returned from injury. OL will qualify for the knockout stage with a match to spare should they win at home to Betis and Guimaraes fail to win at Rijeka. OL have lost only one of their last five fixtures in all competitions and Garde is hopeful the club have turned the corner after an extremely tough couple of months. He said:
“The good spirit within the squad allowed us to get through the difficult times and the draw in Rijeka fits into the positive run we’ve been on in recent times. I know I can count on a large squad and it was good to get those coming back from injury back in the saddle.”
23-year-old goalkeeper Mathieu Gorgelin is in line for his first Ligue 1 start after playing the full 90 on Thursday. Gorgelin came on forinjured custodian Anthony Lopes against Guingamp, while dressing room stalwart Rémy Vercoutre is not yet back to full fitness after knee surgery. Alassane Pléa scored his first OL goal against Rijeka and the 20-year-old will hope for a run-out against ASSE. Pléa said:
“I’m satisfied as it was my first goal and it came in Europe. We’re a gang of friends in the dressing room and the more experience players have been very welcoming to the newcomers and that has made the adaptation process easy.”
St Etienne: Kurt Zouma has been suspended for ten matches for his challenge on Thomas Guerbert of Sochaux. Paul Baysse is out long-term with a knee injury.
Lyon: Anthony Lopes (fractured vertebrae) will be out for two to three months. Maxime Gonalons went off with a leg injury against Guingamp after a challenge for which midfielder Moustapha Diallo apologised. Yassine Benzia suffered a fractured cheekbone playing for the reserves against Montceau.
St Etienne come into this game off a particularly tough last 5 fixtures that have seen them lose to Marseille and Monaco and draw with PSG. They picked up 3 points against Lorient but could only manage a draw against Sochaux last week. Les Verts have been missing a goal scorer all season and seem to be struggling to cope with the loss of Aubameyang. Brandao is toiling away up front but his efforts do not readily convert into goals. St Etienne should be looking for a top four finish to continue the progress of last season but if they cannot find a clinical striker in January this it will be hard to see them achieving this.
Lyon seem to be finally finding their feet after a horrendous start. While never genuine relegation fodder they have given their best impression, a 5:1 defeat to a decidedly average Montpellier side at the start of October being the nadir. The team is far better than the performances so far or league position would suggest. Remi Garde has coped well with the extremely negative and at times gloating media coverage and seems to have the backing of his president. That said St Etienne should be capable of taking all three points here. They have been spreading the goals through out the team, more from necessity than choice admittedly, and their general standard of performance has been better than Lyon’s. They have played some of the best teams in Europe over the last 5 weeks and will have not been majorly outclassed. I expect Lyon to have to wait for the next step in their recovery.
90MinuteCynic Prediction: St Etienne 2: 1 Lyon