Friday, 12 September 2014, 8:30 PM. Stade Gerland, Lyon, France
Olympique Lyon team have gotten off to a nightmare start to the season, finding themselves in 17th place in Ligue 1 with just 3 points from 4 matches. Furthermore, they bowed out of the Europa League in the Play-off Round of qualifying to the Romanian club, Astra (lost on away goals with a 2:2 aggregate). Big things were expected from new manager Hubert Fournier, who led Stade de Reims back into the French top-flight after a 33-year hiatus, but nothing has gone his way so far, including having to deal with an extensive injury list. Creativity is lacking, mainly due to the absence of key midfielders Fofana, Grenier, and Gourcuff. Fofana and Grenier are expected to miss once again this Friday, while Gourcuff has returned to training, and Les Gones could be in serious trouble at home without them. They do possess one of the top attacking talents in the French league with Alexandre Lacazette, and he can always make a difference at any given moment. He formed a solid chemistry with striker Gomis last season, but the large forward has since moved on to the EPL with Swansea City, leaving a noticeable hole up top, especially with Mohamed Yattara headed to the medical room alongside a host of his teammates. They will be eager to set things right after losing their last 3 matches in Ligue 1, but if recent form tells us anything, that streak very well could be extended against AS Monaco.
AS Monaco have had a similarly disappointing start to the season, claiming just 4 points from 4 league matches so far. The 2013-2014 runners-up will be keen to climb the table after surprising defeats to Lorient and Bordeaux left them without a point from their opening matches. But form has picked up a bit, as they collected a 1:0 road win over Nantes and a 1:1 draw against fellow French heavyweights Lille. However, the lone goalscorer in the Nantes victory was the Colombian star Radamel Falcao, who has since been loaned to the EPL to play with Manchester United in a surprising eleventh hour transfer. The departure is devastating for Monaco’s Champions League hopes, both of returning as well as advancing from this year’s group stage. Coupled with the loss of James Rodriguez, new manager Leonardo Jardim must find a creative answer and a reliable lead man in the squad. Dimitar Berbatov is certainly capable, but his aging legs leave a lot to be desired in terms of speed. There are grumblings around the Monaco camp already, mainly aimed at Jardim and his new system, but the truth is he needs time, and the players need to buy into his philosophy if they hope to return to the Champions League next season. Good news comes in the form of loaned-in Brazilian centre-back Wallace as well as coming up against an injury-plagued Lyon side.
Olympique Lyon: Lopes – Jallet, Bisevac, Umtiti, Bedimo – Mvuemba, Gonalons, Ferri – Gourcuff – Lacazette, Ghezzal.
AS Monaco: Subasic – Fabinho, Abdennour, Carvalho, Kurzawa – Moutinho, Toulalan, Kondogbia – Ferreira Carrasco, Berbatov, Germain.