Coupe de France Preview: RC Lens v Olympique Lyonnais
In one of only a handful of all-Ligue 1 fixtures, Lens play host to Lyon. The match sees one of Ligue 1’s more unlucky teams up against arguably the most in-form team in the division. On paper this should be a fairly straightforward victory for the away team.
It’s not been the return to Ligue 1 that Lens would have wanted so far this season. Faced with having to play their home games in Amiens due to renovation work at the Stade Felix Bollaert, Lens also had to cope with a transfer embargo after not being able to demonstrate that their finances would match up to life back in the top flight. With the fee having now been paid to lift the embargo, Lens now have to cope with a further financial burden as the French Football Federation has ordered the club to find an amount in excess of EUR 14 million or risk going out of business. Tough times indeed for the men from the north. It is a credit to the players and to coach Antoine Kombouare that the club currently sit outside of the relegation zone and are on a run of three games without defeat.
Lyon come into this fixture sitting in 2nd place in Ligue 1 after a superb first half to the season. A lot has been made of the young players who have come through the ranks to blossom this season, players such as Corentin Tolisso, Nabil Fekir and France’s hottest striker, Alexandre Lacazette. While the players have certainly been rewarded with the results on the pitch, it is manager Hubert Fournier who perhaps deserves the biggest amount of praise. Faced with the tough task of replacing Remi Garde after a disappointing 2013/14 campaign, Fournier is proving that his achievements with Reims were no fluke.
It was week three when these sides played each other in the league with Lens coming away with victory in Lyon. Les Gones are a very different team to that now, however, and stand as one of the clear favourites to go all the way to the Stade de France and lift the trophy, as they did in 2012.
Sunday’s game will be played at the Stade de l’Épopée, home of Calais RUFC and also the birthplace of young Lens star Benjamin Bourigeaud. What are the odds on the France u20 star becoming the hero for the relocated home side?
The Coupe de France does have a history of springing the odd surprise, however – not least last year when it was Lens, then in Ligue 2, who ended Lyon’s Coupe de France run. However, Fournier will be keen to start 2015 in the same way they finished 2014, banging in the goals and securing the win.