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After dramatic Europa League success, Lyon look to disrupt the Ligue 1 title race

They came, they saw, they survived.

After Anderson Talisca’s double prompted extra time, it was left to penalties and Maxime Gonalons to secure Lyon’s passage into the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday night. The result sets up a mouthwatering clash against Ajax, with the first leg due to take place in Amsterdam on the 3rd of May.

The result is a just reward for a difficult week, in which off-field antics wrought the focus away from more convivial footballing matters. Crowd trouble during the first leg against Beşiktaş was followed by more unsavoury scenes in Corsica, with elements of Bastia’s infamous ‘1905’ ultras provoking despicable violence at the Stade Armand Cesari.

The backlash has been long in coming. Sunday’s incident is just the latest in a long line of controversies surrounding the Corsican club, and after a meeting of the league’s disciplinary commission on Friday, Bastia have been informed that they must play their next league game behind closed doors.

Lyon, meanwhile, can expect a full house at the Parc OL on Sunday. If the events of the last week weren’t enough, Monaco are the upstart visitors in the Rhône valley, Leonardo Jardim’s men looking to seal a first Ligue 1 title since 2000.

In truth, it’s a game L’OL could do without. With Nice’s 3-1 victory against Nancy last weekend nixing any hopes of a Champions’ League place, the Europa League offers a sole reprieve in an otherwise dismal year.

“It will be very difficult on Sunday… given the fatigue,” Bruno Génésio admitted to L’Equipe on Friday afternoon. Especially given Monaco’s victory over fellow hipsters Dortmund on Wednesday night, which follows on the back of six consecutive domestic victories for the team from the principality.

When the sides last met back in December, it was Génésio’s men who upset the apple cart, Alexandre Lacazette scoring and missing a penalty in a comprehensive 3-1 victory. Their fortunes have changed since then, Lyon’s domestic form falling away in alarming fashion in the last few weeks.

Their chances of a win weakened further on Thursday night, Lacazette limping out of the Beşiktaş game with a hamstring injury.  Robbed of their only player to hit double figures for goals this season, Les Gones look blunt against Jardim’s famously organised Monégasques.

A lot will rely on the returning Memphis Depay, who capped a busy week shooting into the Bastia crowd by celebrating the Europa League victory with fans in a local Lyon bar.

Emmanuel Mammana is the only other injury concern as Génésio looks to shrug off an unlikely challenge from Bordeaux in 5th.

In reality, however, Lyon fans will be forgiven for having one eye on that game against Ajax in May. It’s been a somewhat disappointing year domestically, and Génésio can be relieved that his side’s European performances have distracted from another dour campaign.

With Lacazette linked with Dortmund and Atlético Madrid in the summer, things may get worse before they get better. A win against Monaco may, however, be just the tonic in the meantime.

C.W.

 

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