Lyon’s clash against Juventus doesn’t carry the same sense of occasion that it might have a decade ago, when the French side were one Europe’s best dozen teams. However, there is still something to be savoured in a moment which sees one of Europe’s true heavyweights visit the Parc OL for the first time.
Juventus under Max Allegri are in frightening form of late. After a 2-1 loss to Inter Milan, the team have ripped off five straight wins, firmly silencing any doubts that might’ve cropped up, as the team had turned in that performance on the back of a lacklustre scoreless draw with Sevilla on Matchday One.
Jorge Sampaoli’s team have proved to be a thorn in the side of many similarly ambitious teams in the time since, sitting just a point off the pace in La Liga.
Lyon’s fortunes are moving in the opposite direction; a raft of injuries and suspensions sees the team in eighth place domestically, and without consecutive wins since August.
There has been some signs of life, with a fine derby win against Saint-Etienne, and the return of Maxime Gonalons from suspension, but the defence has been suspect in general, even as youngster Emmanuel Mammana has looked a decent prospect.
If Lyon are unable to control things at the back, they could very well be in for a long night against an opponent from whom they desparately need at least a point.
Juventus have three key players on the mend at the moment; Claudio Marchisio is a long-term absentee with a knee issue, and Giorgio Chiellini and Mario Mandzukic are suffering from knocks.
Normally, the experienced centre back would be a miss, especially with his young deputy Daniele Rugani also unavailable, but the club’s acquisition of Mehdi Benatia gives them additional depth at the position.
With the former Roma and Bayern defender installed in Allegri’s back three, the team’s sterling run of having conceded just once in their last five matches should continue unabated.
Mandzukic was a useful piece last season, but was unlikely to start this match with the form of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain to start the season.
The Argentine duo have combined for eleven goals in all competitions, and look to be reaching a pleasant symbiosis, with Higuain’s early-season fitness woes a thing of the past.
There is some uncertainty as to whether Mario Lemina or Hernanes will start in the heart of midfield, but the former Marseille man should get the nod given his bright start to the season.
The hosts, for their part, should put out a lineup that welcomes back the formerly injured Rafael and Alexandre Lacazette, but there is some suggestion that with Maciej Rybus and Emanuel Mammana both absent that, rather than expose young Mouctar Diakhaby, Genesio might revert to a 4-3-3.
In that case, Rafael would play at right back, with Morel on the opposite flank and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Nicolas N’Koulou centrally. The Cameroon international was rested at the weekend after playing 90 minutes against Algeria, but should feature from the off here, no matter the team’s formation.
Maxime Gonalons will play deepest in the midfield three, with Corentin Tolisso and Sergi Darder flanking him. The attack will feature Lacazette and Fekir from the off, either in a two or with fit-again Maxwel Cornet on the left in a 4-3-3.
An injury crisis and a tactical re-working had given Lyon a comfortable 3-0 win in their last European encounter, but the Italian champions must surely provide sterner resistance than Dinamo Zagreb. No matter the formation that Genesio uses, the hosts are certain to have a difficult time of it.
Nabil Fekir, Olympique Lyonnais
After undergoing a follow-up arthroscopic procedure on his knee earlier this season, Fekir appeared to finally close to his pre-injury best, turning in strong performances against Lorient and Saint-Etienne in the league.
His evening against Nice was cut short due to a stamp on the arm of Nice captain Paul Baysse, but the hope here is that Fekir can use what may be a domestic ban to put his focus and energy into excelling in Europe.
At his absolute best, the diminutive playmaker is a world-beater, and with Juventus in fine defensive form, that may just be what is required for Lyon to get a result.
Dani Alves, Juventus FC
The former Barcelona man has excelled in Max Allegri’s 3-5-2; whereas he had previously been frustrated by his defensive responsibilities under Luis Enrique, his role as an orthodox wingback has given rise to a player beyond his years.
Much more than being put out to pasture, his sparing use by Allegri has seen him be as menacing as ever was with Barcelona, and he will surely give Morel and Rybus a good amount of consideration on the evening.
Olympique Lyonnais 1-2 Juventus FC