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Porto-Lyon, tipping point of the OL season?

Moussa Dembélé and the Lyonnais regained momentum in Lorient last Friday. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

Made up of ups and downs, the Lyon season could take a radical turn after the double confrontation against Porto in C3.

From the bygone days of its splendor on the French scene, OL would have expressed its desire to play on all fronts, on the domestic and European scene. If the ambitions remain, the reality seems quite different at a time when the Rhodaniens, lagging behind in the championship, move to Porto in the Europa League this Wednesday (6:45 p.m.). The question thus arises of reconciling two objectives that are apparently not irreconcilable, but risky at the end of the season where Lyon could ultimately lose everything.

Nevertheless, Jean-Michel Aulas seems to have ticked off a real objective for the end of the season. “I am convinced that it is the good year in the European Cup“, assured the Lyon boss at the end of February in The Team. A stroke of pressure on his team or a simple outing tinged with his legendary optimism? “Of course, there is a wait“, agrees the vice-captain Moussa Dembélé, convinced that he “there is no favorite for this game“.

Refreshed after their demonstration in Lorient on Friday (1-4), OL and their striker (scorer and passer) seem to be regaining their colors as they embark on the final sprint, a house specialty. It remains to be seen how to manage the matches every three days with a Europa League that is always costly in terms of energy, all the more so with a particularly tough table. Evidenced by the meeting against Porto, solid leader of the Portuguese championship, six points ahead of Sporting, defending champion. “Porto is a great club, with great playersassures Dembele. They put a lot of intensity.»

The specter of a new white season

A first leg where OL did not start with the favor of the forecasts on the lawn of an opponent still undefeated in the league, and whom they had never beaten on the European stage. A complicated but not insurmountable challenge assures a Peter Bosz who knows the recipe. “FC Porto are a very good opponent, one of the best teams in Europeagreed the Dutch coach after the draw. OL have never beaten Porto in the European Cup but I have already done so with Leverkusen.” A declaration in a smile as if to evacuate the pressure which weighs on his shoulders.

Because if he had dominated Porto both out and back with Bayer in 2020 (3-1, 2-1), the Batavian coach is all the more expected at the turn at the controls of an OL than it struggles to sublimate despite the initial promises. “We have a lot of confidence, it shows how we play and how we defendhowever, rejoices the former coach of Ajax after the demonstration in Lorient. I was hoping for the players to be in good shape for the end of the season and I think that is what is happening.»

Appropriate timing as the Gones move forward in an end to the season full of dangers. Stuck at a 9e place far from the initial objective of the podium, Lucas Paqueta and his family are more than ever in the game but could lose everything in the event of disappointments in the two competitions. If all their paths lead to the Champions League (L1 podium or triumph in the Europa League), the latter seem to be strewn with pitfalls, to say the least, whether they are nestled in the inconstancy of the Rhodaniens or in the superiority, often relative on paper, adversity. And there is no doubt that the situation would worsen internally in the event of a white season, in other words virgin of any European competition as at the end of the 2019-2020 financial year, certainly truncated by the pandemic.

Turn-over of all dangers?

In the last few months, all matches are importantBosz summarizes. However, and despite a fairly large squad, the Dutchman announced that he was going to rotate this Wednesday, thus going against the tide of the probable teams announced in the press. “We must necessarily rotate at some point, we cannot always play with the same eleven players», Explains the one who generally trusts the same elements when he is not constrained by injuries or other suspensions.

A seemingly risky turnover against an undefeated opponent against French clubs on the European scene and against whom OL had lost their last pre-season match, after a spectacular match (3-5). “We played Porto in a warm-up match but different today, we are playing better than at the start of the season“, tempers the Rhone coach.

But the situation is far more urgent than at the end of July. And at the time of choice, this hypothesis of a turnover in C3 is made in defiance of the continental ambitions of its president, who ensured in January on European 1 not wanting to leave”without having brought back a European Cup“. A story hardly foreign to the faithful of OL since the first title in 2002, but unusual for Bosz, for whom the days will undoubtedly be numbered if OL do not perform in the middle of the week next year.

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