Europa Preview : Apollon Limassol v Olympique Lyonnais
It’s been a weird start to the season for OL.
They sold last-season’s top-scorer Alexandre Lacazette to Arsenal, but bought Mariano Diaz from Real Madrid, who has hit the ground running and has already scored four. They sold captain Maxime Gonalons to Roma and key midfielder Corentin Tolisso to Bayern but promoted Nabil Fekir to wear the armband, who has taken to his new role well and has already scored four.
They sold centre-back Emmanuel Mammana to Zenit but bought Marcelo from Besiktas – but instead of giving promising youngster Mouctar Diakhaby a starting berth, Jeremy Morel has still played every minute of the season so far. They bought Kenny Tete at right-back but he’s job-sharing with Rafael. They have three new left-backs.
According to Transfermarkt they’re near €70m up on transfers but their president is complaining about financial doping and writing letters to PSG that are somehow ending up in the papers. They’re unbeaten after five games in Ligue 1, but the #GenesioDemission hashtag is back.
So, weird. Or normal, depending how long you’ve been watching.
With this group also featuring Everton and Atalanta, hosts Apollon Limassol must therefore be cautiously eyeing this game as a credible chance to get some points on the board if they can keep their heads – and depending which Lyon shows up.
The vagaries of the Cypriot league mean that Apollon have only played one league game so far while other teams are on their third round, so things are yet to shake out there in any meaningful way. However, having already played six games in qualifying for the Europa League, they look to be in their groove, bolstered by some new acquisitions – particularly Maltese striker Andre Schembri, and Brazilian leftback Jander.
After seeing off Moldova’s Zaria Balti 5-1 on aggregate they went on to beat Aberdeen 3-2 and Midtjylland 4-3 to get to the group stage, with half of those goals coming from Schembri, and Jander and fellow Brazilian Alex (midfield) getting two each.
Schembri’s itinerant career has taken in a dozen clubs and he’s still only 31, moving through Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Greece before playing over 100 games for another Cypriot club, Omonia Nicosia. Last season he scored 3 goals in 30 games for Boavista in the Portuguese league, which was also the last location for Jander who played (not very much) for Moreirense.
They will be looking to cause an upset, therefore – and as L’Equipe identifies, the last time that OL played a Cypriot team, it did not go well.
The augurs are not for an A-team from OL, as they play PSG in the big match on Sunday night. Loanee Tanguy Ndombele, promotee Myziane Maolida and, more surprisingly, Clement Grenier, are all named in the squad. Despite that, of course, they are heavy favourites, and should win this easily – but even if they do, the focus will be on Sunday night, and any slight slip-up here will only stoke the grumbling fires of fan disgruntlement in the run-up to that.
Squad: Gorgelin, Grange, Lopes – Diakhaby, Marçal, Marcelo, Mendy, Morel, Rafael, Tete – Aouar, Ferri, Grenier, Ndombele, Tousart – Cornet, Fekir, Mariano, Memphis, Maolida, Traoré.