Coupe de France 8emes – Montpellier HSC v Olympique Lyonnais
Montpellier meet Lyon in the round of 16 of a domestic cup competition, why it’s déjà-vu all over again! When the pair met in the Coupe de la Ligue huitiemes at Mosson in December, the home side scampered to a comfortable 4-1 win albeit it against a relatively understrength OL side.
The likelihood of lightning striking twice is an intriguing prospect as Les Gones are experiencing some hiccups on the road in recent games having lost at Bordeaux, deservedly, and then contriving to give up a two goal lead away to ten-man Monaco to lose 3-2. It’s quite the turnaround for Lyon who have more often than not found their travels to be rather fruitful.
This is a slide that needs to be arrested, so it would serve Bruno Génésio well to field his strongest eleven, unlike when the two sides met in the Coupe de la Ligue. There is the temptation to rotate given the number of fixtures Lyon face this month, including the resumption of their Europa League campaign, but that should be resisted in order to lance this boil, rebuild a sense of momentum, and in the process advance in a competition they have a genuine chance of winning.
The key question is whether Lyon can penetrate an extremely disciplined Montpellier defense. The home team have thus far conceded just 20 goals in the league this season, a record only bettered by Paris Saint-Germain. Scoring against a backline including the evergreen Vitorino Hilton, and with Benjamin Lecomte in goal, is not an easy feat as Les Gones have already discovered at Parc OL, after a goalless draw back in November.
Montpellier for their part enjoyed a 2-1 victory over Angers over the weekend, their first win in three matches, which should see them in a positive frame of mind come the round of 16 clash. Those losses were a 4-0 reverse at the Parce des Princes, and a 2-0 defeat in Monaco to put them out of the Coupe de la Ligue, after a fairly chaotic 4-3 win over Ligue 2 Lorient in the last round of this competition, which suggests that the defence might be having some wobbles which they also will want to get over.
Michel der Zakarian can afford to put out his best eleven for this match but will Génésio reciprocate? The OL boss will have to keep any tinkering to a minimum leaving to chance meaning that the big guns Nabil Fekir and Mariano Díaz have to play.
Both Montpellier and Lyon go into this Coupe de France with something to lose, however. For the home team this competition is their last shot at silverware this season, and should they lose there’s the danger of the season petering out as they are nowhere near the European qualification places. As for OL, the Coupe de France is probably their best bet of a trophy this season too, but in the more immediate timeframe it’s an opportunity to shake off two damaging defeats and set themselves up for a tricky Europa League tie against Villarreal.
This round of 16 match could prove to be quite a tense affair so don’t be surprised if – for once – it is settled by the odd goal.