AFP/ Paris, France
Rudi Garcia begins his reign as Lyon manager tomorrow with what should be a simple task against lowly Dijon, as he attempts to win over underwhelmed fans and turn around a season that is already threatening to go off the rails.
Garcia, 55, took charge of the off-form outfit on Monday tasked with ending a miserable run that has left them languishing in 14th place in Ligue 1 after nine games, already seven points away from the Champions League places for which they are expected to challenge.
Leaders Paris Saint-Germain are way off in the distance, 12 points ahead of a Lyon side that have failed to win in the league since August.
Garcia’s arrival at one of France’s biggest clubs comes after he quit Marseille in May following his failure to guide them to European football last season. A miserable campaign also saw his former side suffer a humiliating French Cup exit to amateurs Andrezieux and collect just one point in the Europa League group stage before crashing out.
Within hours of his appointment a petition entitled “No to Rudi Garcia” collected nearly 7,000 signatures from bemused supporters.
“My priority will be to win and all my energy is turned towards that. Everyone wants Olympique Lyonnais to start winning again. Wins bring smiles,” Garcia told a sceptical public on Tuesday.
He will have to try to win without talisman and former captain Nabil Fekir, midfielder Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy who all left in the summer, as they flounder at home in contrast to a promising start in the Champions League.
They scored nine goals as they thrashed Monaco and Angers in their opening two Ligue 1 matches but have failed to win since, losing four of their following seven fixtures including the derby defeat by Saint-Etienne.
Dijon may not be the easy pickings Garcia is hoping for after winning their last two matches and lifting themselves off the bottom of the table.
Icardi finds feet in France
PSG meanwhile are still dealing with an injury crisis up front that could allow new signing Mauro Icardi a chance to further establish himself in the champions’ attack as they look to defend their two-point lead at the top at Nice today.
Neymar returned from international duty with a hamstring problem that will rule him out for four weeks as the Brazilian’s injury woes continue, while coach Thomas Tuchel said yesterday that he was “unsure” about whether to start Kylian Mbappe on the French Riviera.
The 20-year-old Mbappe has not started a game since August and last week left France’s training camp with a niggling thigh injury.
“He completed a full week of training but I still need to speak to him as he can’t play if he’s only at 80-90%. He needs to be fully ready,” said Tuchel.
Edinson Cavani hasn’t made a single appearance since injuring his hip against Toulouse in August and Icardi has taken advantage following his loan move from Inter Milan, putting the Italian media circus behind him as he starts to find the net again.
Icardi, 26, who was stripped of the captaincy at Inter last season amid a contract row before being frozen out by the Serie A club in the summer, bagged the winner at Galatasaray to give PSG a perfect start in the Champions League and followed that up with another in their subsequent 4-0 thrashing of third-placed Angers before the international break.
“In Italy a vicious circle had been created in certain journalist circles where we ended up talking a little too much about anything concerning me,” Icardi said to Italian sports daily Gazzetta Dello Sport.
“I’m up and running again even if I have to keep working because I had a complicated summer and I wasn’t one hundred % when I arrived in Paris.”
n Nice v Paris Saint-Germain
n Lyon v Dijon
n Angers v Brest
n Reims v Montpellier
n Nimes v Amiens
n Toulouse v Lille
n Metz v Nantes
n Bordeaux v Saint-Etienne
n Monaco v Rennes
n Marseille v Strasbourg
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