Garde calls for Lyon reaction after Euro failure
Lyon coach Remi Garde has urged his players to channel the disappointment of their Champions League exit at the hands of Cypriot underdogs APOEL into Saturday's crucial home game with French champions Lille.
After being taken to 120 minutes in Wednesday's sapping penalty shoot-out loss in Nicosia, Lyon's players must now steel their weary limbs for a game crucial to their hopes of qualifying for next season's tournament.
Lyon have not won in the league since January, with last weekend's 2-0 loss at Nancy extending their winless run to five games and leaving them eight points outside the Champions League places in eighth position.
Having reached the round of 16 in Europe's premier club competition for the last nine seasons in a succession, Lyon now face the very real possibility of missing out on a place in Europe altogether.
Lille currently occupy the third and final Champions League place in Ligue 1 and victory for Rudi Garcia's side at Stade Gerland would leave Lyon 10 points behind them -- potentially ending their hopes of a top-three finish.
Win, however, and Lyon will cut Lille's advantage to just four points, which would give hope not only to Garde's team but also the other clubs -- notably Rennes, Saint-Etienne, Toulouse and Marseille -- bidding to hunt the champions down.
"Feeling beaten won't move us forward now," warned Garde.
"We have to move on and start thinking about what's coming next. We won't have much time to think, with Lille coming to Gerland.
"When you're a Lyon player, and you're still in contention in three competitions, you have to be motivated."
Lyon have already reached the French League Cup final, where they will meet Marseille, as well as the quarter-finals of the French Cup, but Lille's only remaining objective for the campaign is to secure third place.
After successive away wins at Lorient and Sochaux, Garcia's men have conceded late equalisers against Rennes and Auxerre -- frustrating their attempts to close ground on the top two and preventing them from pulling away from the teams below them.
With leaders Paris Saint-Germain and second-placed Montpellier both in action on Sunday, a win for Lille at Stade Gerland would allow them to move to within five points of top spot.
The visitors remain wary, however, of the wounded foe that awaits them.
"This Lyon team is still dangerous, particularly when they play at home," Brazilian striker Tulio de Melo told the Lille website.
"They're among our main rivals for Europe. It's definitely a crucial match for them. We'll do all we can to extend their run of games without a win."
Unbeaten in 15 matches in all competitions, Carlo Ancelotti's PSG visit Dijon on Sunday.
Victory will provisionally take them four points clear of Montpellier, who host Caen in Sunday's late game.
At the other end of the table, bottom club Sochaux will begin life without sacked coach Mehmed Bazdarevic at in-form Evian
Bazdarevic became the fourth managerial casualty of the Ligue 1 season on Tuesday, following a run of 14 games without a win in all competitions that left last season's fifth-placed team five points from safety at the foot of the standings.
Former reserve team coach Eric Hely has been placed in charge of the first team until the end of the season.
Ajaccio v Marseille
Saturday (1800GMT unless otherwise stated):
Brest v Bordeaux, Evian v Sochaux, Nice v Nancy, Toulouse v Lorient, Valenciennes v Saint-Etienne, Lyon v Lille (2000GMT)
Sunday (1600GMT unless otherwise stated):
Dijon v Paris Saint-Germain, Rennes v Auxerre, Montpellier v Caen (2000GMT)
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