- PSG-Lyon fixture is the biggest in French women’s football
- The two teams face off this Friday for the 54th time
- Jessica Houara, who played for both clubs, discusses the rivalry
Over the last few years, the rivalry between Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon has become the biggest in the French women’s game. While the Lyon juggernaut has had a very obvious edge in the power struggle between the two sides, who meet on Friday on Matchday 9 of the French league, the gap between them appears to be closing.
A win for the Parisians will take them to the top of the table and boost their hopes of landing the title for the first time in their history. FIFA.com sets the scene for the big match by taking a close look at this classic fixture, all with the aid of statistics and the expert opinion of Jessica Houara, who won 64 France caps and played for both clubs: PSG between 2009 and '16, and Lyon between 2016 and '18.
How it all came about
“When I started out at PSG there wasn’t any real rivalry between the teams because Paris didn’t have the resources to take Lyon on,” Houara told FIFA.com. “For us they were still the biggest games of the season, though, and we knew it was going to be tough. Then we started to finish runners-up in the league and became Lyon’s biggest rivals.”
PSG’s transformation began in 2012 with the arrival of their Qatari owners, who made the women’s team professional. Yet despite the boost to the club’s financial resources, the results took some time to come. “To my mind, Paris’s problem in the first few years was a lack of continuity. There would be five or six new players every season and we had to rebuild every time, while l’OL made just a few changes without upsetting the balance of their squad.”
The number of consecutive French titles Lyon have won since 2007, in which time they have also lifted the Coupe de France nine times and the UEFA Women’s Champions League seven times. In contrast, PSG have finished league runners-up eight times in that period and won two domestic cups.
The number of times the two sides have met to date, in all competitions. Lyon have dominated the fixture, winning 35 games to PSG’s four, with the remaining 14 matches all drawn. Lyon are also way ahead in terms of goals scored: 102 to PSG’s 23.
Culture and infrastructure
“Paris have got a great squad now, but Lyon are out front when it comes to bringing players in,” said Houara. “Look at what they did when Lucy Bronze left this summer. They replaced her with Ellie Carpenter. She’s only 20 and she’s just as good as Bronze. She’s got the potential to be even better. It just shows that Lyon’s recruitment team always make good choices.
“The two clubs are pretty even in terms of infrastructure. The only difference is that Lyon use the same training ground as the men’s team and they’ve got everything in place.”
Explaining the real secret behind Lyon's enduring success, however, Houara said: “It’s their winning mentality and amazing hunger for records. The smallest match in training becomes a competition. Every player who joins the team adopts that mindset.”
Following their 0-0 draw with Bordeaux on 13 September, the club from the capital find themselves two points behind their biggest rivals, who have won all of their eight matches to date. Nevertheless, PSG have been in irrepressible form since that goalless draw and have a better goal difference than the league leaders: +35 to +26.
“Paris are in great form and they might get a result on Friday,” said Houara. “They had one slip-up but they’ve been amazing since then. If they win on Friday, they’ll move ahead of them.
"We keep saying every year that PSG’s time will come but Lyon keep on winning the title. Paris have got what it takes to do it this season, though. They need to overcome that mental hurdle and really convince themselves they can do it.
“There’s been more stability at Paris in the last three seasons and that’s made all the difference. Paris are one of the few teams that can beat l’OL now and again.
"You could sense last season that the gap was really closing. The matches were a lot tighter and either ended 1-0 or went to penalties. These days Paris aren’t happy just to sit back and defend like they did when I was there. The team can come out and play against Lyon.”