What: French Ligue 1
Who: Lyon vs Lille
When: Saturday 10th March, 2012, at 20:00 UK time
Where: Stade Gerland, Lyon, France

Disaster Struck

Few would have expected minnows APOEL Nicosia to topple Lyon in the Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday night. While it is true that the bout was eventually decided on penalties, Lyon where nonetheless overwhelming favourites to progress. Overall, the Cypriots now continue their Champions League march, while 2010’s semi-finalists are left picking up the pieces, and that starts here with a clash against third-placed Lille.

The seven-time Ligue 1 champions were left visibly distraught after the referee ended the game against APOEL. Coach Remi Garde wishes, understandably, to see an instant reaction from his troops.

“Feeling beaten won’t move us forward now”, said the Lyon boss. “We have to move forward and start thinking about what is coming next. We won’t have much time to think, with Lille coming to the Gerland.”

Surely the team must now follow Garde’s advice and improve their Ligue 1 standing. Sitting in seventh place with just 40 points after 26 fixtures, only seven points separating the side from third-placed Lille, a comeback would be miraculous, but that is not to say that Les Gones cannot start the journey back to the top three here.

Rued Luck

Lille themselves are enduring a rough patch, drawing their last two league games and slipping further behind Paris Saint-Germain and Montpellier’s trail. The Ligue 1 title is out of their hands now, with slip-ups needed from those above, but that does not mean that Lille cannot inflict damage upon a Lyon side that may still be shaken from their European outing. And a win against a team of Lyon’s pedigree could prove to be the spark that Rudi Garcia’s side need in order to boost morale ahead of the title run-in.

Leading 2-0 against Auxerre last weekend, Les Dogues managed to throw away the game by taking their foot off the gas, allowing the visitors to end the game with a 2-2 scoreline, something that did not go down well with Garcia, who blasted his side for easing up before the game was effectively over.

Lille star Mathieu Debuchy has taken his coach’s words to heart and stresses that even finishing third in Ligue 1, a Champions League qualification berth, cannot be taken for granted, insisting that the Lyon meeting could be crucial.

“It is a difficult and unpredictable league, but we must do everything to maintain third place”, said Debuchy. “As such, Saturday’s game against Lyon is very important. Lyon need points and they are dangerous in attack.”

Recent form

Lyon 4-4 Paris Saint-Germain (25/02; Ligue 1)
Nancy 2-0 Lyon (03/03; Ligue 1)
APOEL Nicosia 1-0 Lyon (07/03; Champions League)

Sochaux 0-1 Lille (22/02; Ligue 1)
Rennes 1-1 Lille (26/02; Ligue 1)
Lille 2-2 Auxerre (03/03; Ligue 1)

Key absences

Lyon: Yoann Gourcuff; John Mensah

Lille: Franck Beria; Ronny Rodelin; Marko Basa

Players to watch

Lyon – Hugo Lloris: Against one of the best attacking sides in France, Les Bleus’ number 1 shot-stopper must be on his toes should his team want to forget the APOEL disaster fairly quickly. One of the best goalkeepers in the world, Lloris’ form will be instrumental for Lyon.

Lille – Eden Hazard: The Belgium wizard is on every team’s wish-list as one of the future stars of the game. A forward full of tricks, Hazard has already drawn comparisons with the legendary Zinedine Zidane. He is able to carve sides open at will.

Match Prediction

Lyon have struggled a little of late and it will be a surprise if Les Gones manage to suddenly hit top gear against Lille. The reigning champions are playing good football and could claim a valuable victory at the Stade Gerland, keeping fading title hopes alive. Lyon 0-2 Lille.

This Lyon v Lille match is the highlight of Ligue 1 this weekend. Can you tip a winner? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.