Lyon, Marseille desperate to clinch trophy
With Lyon aiming for a first trophy in four years and Marseille bidding to end a run of 12 games without a win, Saturday's French League Cup final at Stade de France carries a faint air of desperation.
Two of France's biggest and most successful clubs, both Marseille and Lyon have endured testing seasons. Marseille were still engaged in four competitions as recently as 20 March, but their dismal current form of 11 defeats and one draw in 12 matches means that Saturday's game is their last chance to salvage their season.
Eliminated from the Coupe de France by third-tier Quevilly and then swept out of the UEFA Champions League by Bayern Munich, Didier Deschamps' side have also slumped to ninth place in Ligue 1. Wednesday's 3-1 loss at home to Montpellier means they have now gone ten games without a win in the French top flight.
Sixteen points below the Champions League places and 13 points off the UEFA Europa League berth currently occupied by fourth-placed Lyon, OM's hopes of European football next season now rest solely on the defence of their League Cup crown.
"The situation is very complicated and very difficult," said Deschamps, whose side will qualify for the Europa League if they beat Lyon. "We need to get it out of our system and arrive with enough confidence to give it our all on Saturday. We have a very important match and my job is to prepare the team so that they're in the best possible state of mind. It's the last opportunity to win a trophy this year."
Marseille's misery has played out to a soundtrack of increasing hostility from the stands, with scornful banners and torrents of abuse directed at Deschamps and his players during the loss to league leaders Montpellier.
Lyon turn things around
Lyon's season, meanwhile, had looked destined to slip in the same direction, but since going out of the Champions League to Cypriot outsiders APOEL Nicosia last month they have turned things around. Four wins in five games have lifted them to within three points of third-placed Lille in Ligue 1, while Tuesday's 4-0 thrashing of third-tier Gazelec Ajaccio took them into the final of the Coupe de France for the first time since they won the double under Alain Perrin in 2008.
Remi Garde's side are only the third team to have reached the final of both of France's domestic cup competitions in the same season, after Paris Saint-Germain in 1995, 1998 and 2008, and Sochaux in 2002. "The final against Marseille will be great, but only if we win it," said club president Jean-Michel Aulas. "We respect our opponents and will continue with our preparations for Saturday. It's magnificent for our supporters."
Club captain Cris is a doubt for Lyon, while midfielders Yoann Gourcuff and Ederson are sidelined through injury. Right-back Cesar Azpilicueta (ankle) and top scorer Loic Remy (thigh) were both named in Marseille's squad after being rested for the visit of Montpellier, but centre-back Souleymane Diawara is unavailable due to a knee ligament injury.
Lyon had the best of the two league encounters between the teams this season, winning 2-0 at the Stade de Gerland in September and then fighting back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at the Velodrome in February's return fixture.
Having successfully defended their trophy by beating Montpellier 1-0 in last season's final, Marseille are aiming to become the first team to win the League Cup for three successive years. Lyon's last League Cup final appearance came in 2007, when they lost 1-0 to Bordeaux.
Their only success in the competition came in 2001, when they edged Monaco 2-1 in extra time thanks to a 118th-minute goal by Swiss defender Patrick Muller.