Champions League 2015/16 profiles: Olympique Lyonnais
It’s nice to see Olympique Lyonnias, commonly shortened to Lyon, back in the Champions League. Drawn in Group H alongside Gent, Valencia and Zenit St Petersburg, Coral think the Kids are all right at 11/4 to top this pool and odds-on at 4/5 to qualify from it.
Domestic League: Ligue 1
How they qualified: Finishing as runners-up to PSG in France last season ensured Lyon would be back at Europe’s top table.
Best Champions League era performance: Having dominated their domestic scene for much of the opening decade of this century, the Kids then followed that up with a continental campaign that saw them almost go all the way in 2009/10. Lyon reached the Champions League semi-finals, beating Olympiakos and fellow French side Bordeaux in the knockout phase before falling to Bayern Munich.
Coach: Hubert Fournier is in his second season in charge of the Kids after moving from Reims over the summer of 2014. Many of his predecessors, who include former national bosses Raymond Domenech, Gerard Houllier and Jacques Santini, went on to enjoy increased profiles after coaching Lyon.
Ins and outs: It’s been an under-the-radar recruitment drive from Fournier, but his six signings offset roughly the same number of first-team exits and there’s a lot to like about the arrivals. Strength in depth in defence has been taken care of by the captures of Rafael Da Silva, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Jeremy Morel.
Creative Spanish midfielder Sergi Darder joins diminutive France international winger Mathieu Valbuena at the Kids, and another option up top is Guingamp goal-grabber Claudio Beauvue. Former AC Milan playmaker Yoaan Gourcuff is the most notable departure, with Cameroon attacker Clinton N’Jie now at Spurs.
Familiar faces: Defensive duo Rafael and Yanga-Mbiwa have both plied their trade in the Premier League with Manchester United and Newcastle respectively, and add European experience to Lyon’s rearguard.
Key player: If Alexandre Lacazette’s 31 goals across all competitions last term are any indicator, then this Les Bleus forward is a lethal predator that opposition defenders are going to struggle with. His maiden Champions League campaign will be watched by France boss Diider Deschamps with interest ahead of the country hosting Euro 2016.
One to watch: Lacazette’s Kids cohort Nabil Fekir is a huge miss with a serious knee injury and would be the obvious candidate in this bracket. In his absence, and fellow long-term lay-offs Gueida Fofana and Clement Grenier, it’s to Valbuena that Fournier shall be looking for the guile and supply to feed the striker.
Emerging talent: Corentin Tolisso is more than just a utility man; the midfielder and full back was a surprise source of seven goals last season. Aged just 21, he is still to pick a position really, but looks like having the potential to be the latest talent off Lyon’s production line.
CL group and fixtures: Group H
v Gent (away), September 16th
v Valencia (home), September 29th
v Zenit (away), October 20th
v Zenit (home), November 4th
v Gent (home), November 24th
v Valencia (away), December 9th