OL-ASSE: It's finally derby time!
The international break did not benefit both opponents the same way. While five Saint-Etienne players were on national team duty this past fortnight, Lyon were deprived of 12 squad members during the same period. In addition to the numerous absences, there were injuries - most notably to Houssem Aouar and Moussa Dembélé, among others. But everyone is now back and the sole focus is Friday's derby. Almost two weeks after beating Guingamp (2-4), Nabil Fekir and company return to action at Groupama Stadium, site of the 117th derby and the first in a string of nine matches for OL from now through the end of the year.
Beyond the fierce rivalry between both clubs, there's currently the matter of the Ligue 1 Conforama standings. OL currently sit in fourth place with 24 points, just one more than Saint-Etienne. Match Day 14 day will also see third-place Montpellier (25 points) host Rennes and Lille (2nd, 26 points) visit Nice. This weekend could make for some table-shifting results in a race for the podium that's sure to last deep into the season. This third-ever derby to be played at Groupama Stadium also presents Lyon an opportunity to preserve their unbeaten derby record in their new stadium, as well as reviving the beautiful memories from last season's 0-5 away win. A historic result at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in which 16 of the 18 players who featured that night are still with both respective clubs.
With a record budget, Saint-Etienne have given themselves the means to reach European spots this season. Two main players carry the majority of the team's hopes on their shoulders: Wahbi Khazri (six goals) and Rémy Cabella (three goals). Saint-Etienne's two biggest offseason signings who offer loads of experience to "a team in clear progression," according to manager Jean-Louis Gasset. That said, ASSE have struggled against higher-ranked teams this campaign, drawing with Montpellier (0-0) and falling to Lille (3-1) and PSG (4-0). Les Verts, who once again will be without their fans, have won only two out of their last 19 visits to OL (6 draws, 11 losses). They did, however, manage to pull off a 1-1 tie last time around.
Forces at play
Captain Nabil Fekir's muscular fatigue is now a distant memory. After his absence in Brittany, he played a few minutes with the French team against Uruguay. Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy also featured with Les Bleus, earning high praise for their performances against Los Charruas. Memphis, who qualified for the Nations League's Final Four with the Netherlands, is coming off a brilliant display vs. Guingamp. It's almost all good news other than Jérémy Morel, who's suspended for the derby. As for Saint-Etienne, Les Verts will be without Loïc Perric, out for a month due to a left hamstring injury.