Lyon set to miss out on Europe as new era begins
PARIS, May 18, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - As they head into a new era off the pitch,
a disappointing season on it means Lyon, formerly French football's dominant
force, are set to miss out on European qualification once again.
With just three games of the Ligue 1 campaign remaining, including Friday's
meeting with Monaco, Lyon are seventh, four points adrift of even a
qualifying berth for next season's Europa Conference League.
A club who played in Europe in 23 consecutive seasons, culminating in their
run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2020, are now set for a third
campaign in four years without being involved in continental competition.
A decline has set in on the banks of the Rhone at what was once France's
model club, champions seven years running between 2002 and 2008.
The appointment of Laurent Blanc as coach earlier this season, after a poor
start, has not been enough to lift OL back to what they see as their rightful
place after they came a disappointing eighth last year.
The return of local hero Alexandre Lacazette has been a success, with the
striker netting 25 Ligue 1 goals since rejoining from Arsenal, and yet Lyon
are simply not the force they once were.
"Europe is bust," admitted France's 1998 World Cup winner Blanc after last
week's 2-1 defeat at modest Clermont.
"If the players don't agree with me, they will have to prove me wrong. And I
will be very happy to be wrong," he told reporters on Wednesday.
In December, Lyon were taken over by American businessman John Textor and his
company Eagle Football.
Jean-Michel Aulas, the emblematic Lyon president who had been at the helm
since 1987, initially stayed in his role but the man who built the modern
club departed earlier this month.
Textor now has a clear path to shape the club in his own way, and he is
expected to make sweeping changes to the scouting department, although Blanc
looks set to stay as coach.
This week saw another major change, with the new owners agreeing to sell a
controlling stake in Lyon's highly successful women's team -- record eight-
time Champions League winners -- to US entrepreneur Michele Kang.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for what was once a footballing
force to be reckoned with in the European men's game.
"This season is the end of an era, and another one begins in June," said
Blanc. "We will need to go into it with ambition."
Player to watch: Mostafa Mohamed
The Egyptian striker did not play for Nantes in their 0-0 draw at Toulouse
last weekend in a protest against an anti-homophobia campaign across Ligue 1.
"Given my roots, my culture, the importance of my convictions and beliefs, it
was not possible for me to participate in this campaign," he wrote on Twitter
after refusing to wear a jersey with the numbers in the colours of the
Mohamed was fined by his club, but is expected to be back in the team for
Saturday's game against Montpellier. Nantes will need the on-loan Galatasaray
player, who has scored 11 goals this season, as they look to climb out of the
11 - PSG could set a French record by winning an 11th league title this
weekend. They equalled Saint-Etienne's previous record of 10 last year.
26 - The number of Ligue 1 goals scored this season by Kylian Mbappe, leaving
him top of the scorers' charts, one ahead of Lacazette.
19 - Folarin Balogun, on loan at Reims from Arsenal, last week became the
leading English marksman in a single French season when he netted his 19th
goal, overtaking Glenn Hoddle's 18 for Monaco in 1988/89. Then this week he
changed his international allegiance from England to the United States, where
he was born.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Lyon v Monaco (1900)
Nantes v Montpellier (1500), Lille v Marseille (1900)
Ajaccio v Rennes (1100), Brest v Clermont, Nice v Toulouse, Reims v Angers,
Troyes v Strasbourg (1300), Lorient v Lens (1505), Auxerre v Paris Saint-