Josh Mart previews this Europa League encounter at the Stade Gerland, where Lyon will host Portuguese outfit Vitoria Guimaraes. The Portuguese visitors will be hoping to upset the odds in mid-east France against a suffering and injury-plagued Lyon team.
Thursday’s match in Lyon will be a huge test for both sides. Les Gones mustered up the fight to earn a point against a confident Real Betis side in their last Europa League game; whilst Vitoria dispatched of the group’s weakest member Rijeka 4-0 in a dominating display.
Lyon’s form this season has been mediocre to say the least. They have won just once in their last 9 games in all competitions, a 3-1 home win against Ligue 1 new-boys Nantes a couple of weeks ago. Their draw with Les Dogues last weekend once again indicated their inability to create and finish chances upfront.
Vitoria have also begun this season’s campaign in relatively poor form, losing 3 of their last 4 league games, albeit falling at the hands of Portuguese giants Benfica and Porto as part of that run.
Squad Selection and Tactics
Remi Garde has a lot of players out through injury, including the likes of Bisevac and Gourcuff, yet he will be able to welcome back Lacazette who was suspended for the weekend’s match against Lille.
Lyon’s attacking midfielder Clement Grenier was the first to admit he has not been playing well of late and Garde will need the Frenchman to rectify that to give him some hope of causing Vitoria significant problems on Thursday night.
One expects Remi Garde to play a variation of a 4-5-1 with Gomis leading the line up top. Grenier and possibly Malbranque will have the job of supporting Gomis as well as providing cover for Maxime Gonalons when Guimaraes are on the attack. Umtiti and Kone will likely keep their places at the heart of the defence.
Vitoria Guimaraes will probably start off with a similar team that beat Rijeka in the previous Europa League match, which means that former Bordeaux and Monaco man, Maazou will spearhead the attack. Andre Andre impressed on the left of the midfield in a 4-3-3 formation against Rijeka, so expect him to be influential throughout.
The midfield battle could prove to be the most intense in this Europa League encounter. Both teams are likely to play with a three man midfield. The likes of Clement Grenier and Maxime Gonalons possess undoubted qualities that should enable them to dominate in this area of the field, but their confidence is at a 2013 low. The Guimaraes midfield will hope to keep possession ticking over, but I feel that they could be overpowered if Lyon take the game to them.
The team that provides their striker with the most ammunition will reap the rewards, as neither defence is remarkably impenetrable.
If Les Gones really want to progress from this group, winning home matches is vital. It is unclear yet as to how high up on the agenda Europa League success is in the minds of Jean Michel Aulas and his team, but at full fitness Lyon are genuine contenders. Vitoria Guimaraes will be full of confidence after their win against Rijeka, but will know that this will be a tough match. I expect Lyon to win, but it will be a nervy encounter.
Prediction: Lyon 1-0 Vitoria Guimaraes