Lyon, wounded after suffering what captain Juninho dismissed as an "accidental" first loss of the season, resume this Saturday after the FIFA World Cup™ qualifying interlude against Lille.
With that 3-0 hammering by Rennes a fortnight ago still hurting, the seven-time French champions are out to prove it was a rare blip rather than an indication of anything more serious. "," said Juninho. Lyon's new manager, Claude Puel, remained philosophical about the defeat, saying: "It's always interesting to experience a moment like that."
If Juninho and his teammates need any motivation, they should look no further than the club's women's side, who ran out 7-1 winners over FC Zurich last weekend.
The Brazilian, on the bench against Rennes, partly blamed Lyon's inability to refocus on domestic considerations three days after playing Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. "It was a logical defeat - all the team were having trouble concentrating. After the draw with Bayern we didn't know how to remotivate ourselves for the championship. We have to win against Lille to keep ahead of our pursuers," said Lyon's master of the set-piece.
Lyon welcome back from suspension Italian fullback Fabio Grosso, but will be missing midfielder Jeremy Toulalan (suspended), Brazilian Fabio Santos (calf injury), Sidney Govou (ankle) and Francois Clerc (knee).
The chasing pack is headed by Toulouse, flying high under their new manager Alain Casanova. The second-placed side face a tough assignment against fifth-placed Bordeaux, whose young playmaker Yoann Gourcuff starred in France's 2-2 FIFA World Cup qualifying draw with Romania last weekend.
"Yoann is important for the way Bordeaux play, just as he's become important for France," said manager Laurent Blanc. "He's a kid that's hardly had time to catch his breath, but he's going to have to, because if we don't he risks injury. That would be very bad news for him, for Bordeaux and for France."
Marseille, breathing down Toulouse's neck in third, pick up after the break, with an attractive away trip to lowly Valenciennes. Valenciennes' season has been marred by former Manchester City and Sheffield United defender David Sommeil's career-ending heart attack suffered in training last month.
Former European heavyweights Saint Etienne celebrate making it into the UEFA Cup group stage with an away date with Nantes. Paris Saint Germain, one point ahead of Saint Etienne in 11th place and also through to the next phase of the UEFA Cup, are up against third-from-bottom Lorient.
One of the oldest clubs in France, Sochaux, celebrate 80 years at the top level with a visit from Le Havre, who fittingly hold the honour of being the oldest side. Sochaux president Alexandre Lacombe said: "Professionalism was born in Sochaux in 1928 (with the first players' salaries) at the initiative of Jean-Pierre Peugeot, the carmaker."
Sochaux could do with a win in this bottom-of-the-table clash to put the wheels back on their struggling campaign.-