In the final Coupe de France match of the round two sides with proud histories go head to head. Lyon were winners of the competition in 2012 when they defeated 4th tier Quevilly thanks to a solitary Lisandro Lopez goal. That was their fifth time lifting the trophy – their opponents, on the other hand, have never won the Coupe de France.
Thus far Lyon have had it fairly simple in progressing through the competition; they have overcome two lower league sides with the minimum of fuss, La Suze FC 6-1 and then AS Yzeure 3-1. Lens meanwhile have been going in the competition since mid-November and themselves had a relatively easy ride until the last round when they were victorious after extra-time against Ligue 1 side SC Bastia.
Lens find themselves flying high in Ligue 2 and finally look like mounting, at the very least, a promotion challenge for the first time since their descent downwards in 2011. With 15 league games remaining, they sit on the podium embroiled in a tight promotion race conceivably involving up to ten teams, due to Ligue 2’s natural unpredictability.
The side from the North of France recruited former Valenciennes and PSG gaffer Antoine Kombouaré to lead the side this season and he has been doing a fairly decent job; his side seemed to peaking at the right time. Kombouaré used his PSG connections to borrow Alphonse Aréola from his former employers and the French under-20 world cup winning goalkeeper has been in fine form. Other standout performers for les Sangs-et-Ors include veteran Daniel Ljuboja, Pablo Chavarria and Yoan Touzghar.
Lens would have surely been hoping to have been drawn to play this game at home where they could have counted on a fervent partisan atmosphere at the Stade Bolleart. Whereas, now they must head south to the Stade Gerland which should, at least in theory, play more into Les Gones’ hands.
Lyon came through a potentially tricky league match at the weekend at Nantes in front of a packed house making a lot of noise and they will be looking to continue their success in the cups. They have already secured one date at the Stade de France in the Coupe de la Ligue final where they will play PSG.
The cups could provide solace for Rémi Garde’s side as they no longer find themselves as automatic title contenders in Ligue 1. Given the financial situation OL are in, they have had to move on a lot of players while bringing through a crop of youngsters. As a result of this the cups offer a route to success for Lyon.
Logically Lyon should have too much for Lens; they have only lost twice since the beginning of December and the talent they possess should be more capable of seeing off lower league opposition. Yet, Lyon would be unwise to go into thinking it was already won against a Lens side on the rise.