Lyon eye route into Europe after remarkable revival

Lyon eye route into Europe after remarkable revival

April 12, 2024 at 1:36 AM
Pierre Sage has overseen Lyon's remarkable revival over the last four months
Pierre Sage has overseen Lyon's remarkable revival over the last four months. Photo: Olivier CHASSIGNOLE / AFP/File
Source: AFP

Lyon's transformation from relegation contenders in Ligue 1 just a few months ago has been so remarkable that they head into the final weeks of this season with two paths to European qualification still open.

Champions League semi-finalists as recently as 2020, the seven-time French champions were rock bottom of Ligue 1 in early December with a paltry seven points from 14 games.

That was just after Pierre Sage, the head of the club's youth academy, had been named interim coach following the sacking of Fabio Grosso, whose own reign lasted only seven matches.

The 44-year-old Sage, who never played at a high level and had never previously coached a senior team, lost his first two matches at the helm.

The turnaround since then has been quite astonishing, with Lyon winning 10, drawing one and losing three of their last 14 games, collecting more points than any other club in the division in that time.

Now Lyon head into Sunday's home meeting with Brest in 10th place in the table, relegation no longer a concern as they lie 12 points clear of the bottom three with six games left.

In contrast, they are only two points adrift of seventh, which will be enough to qualify for next season's UEFA Conference League should Paris Saint-Germain win the French Cup.

PSG's opponents in the French Cup final, which will be played in Lille on May 25, are Lyon, who therefore still have a chance of claiming a first trophy since 2012 as well as a Europa League spot via that route.

Their resurgence has justified the club's decision to stick with Sage, even if that has meant paying a fine of 25,000 euros ($26,814) per game as he does not have the necessary coaching badges -- he will do a course to obtain his qualifications at the end of the season.

"We are still hoping to climb a few places and finish as high up the table as possible," said 17-goal top scorer Alexandre Lacazette after last week's 3-1 win at Nantes.

"We have six great matches and lots of points still to play for."

They must nevertheless be wary this weekend of a Brest side who have upset the odds this season and currently sit second.

The Britany club have never previously finished higher than eighth but a victory in Lyon would be a big step towards them securing a top-four spot and a place in next season's Champions League.

Player to watch: Andrey Santos

Braziian youngster Andrey Santos is on loan at Strasbourg from Chelsea
Braziian youngster Andrey Santos is on loan at Strasbourg from Chelsea. Photo: PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP/File
Source: AFP

The 19-year-old Brazilian midfielder is a symbol of the link between Chelsea and Strasbourg, with the latter having been taken over last year by BlueCo, the US consortium which also owns the London club.

Santos was bought by Chelsea in January last year from Vasco da Gama in his homeland, and was loaned out to Nottingham Forest in the first half of this season.

After only two appearances there, he was sent to Strasbourg in the January window and has made a promising start in Alsace under Patrick Vieira, completing 90 minutes in each of their last three games.

Santos is a long way from the finished article, but he is nevertheless a promising talent with a potentially huge future.

Key stats

7 - The number of points Lyon collected in their first 14 matches this season

31 - The number of points Lyon have collected in their subsequence 14 league matches

6 - Only six Ligue 1 matches will be played this weekend, with the matches involving PSG, Marseille and Lille all postponed until April 24 to help them prepare for European ties next week

Fixtures (all times GMT)


Metz v Lens (1900)


Strasbourg v Reims (1500), Rennes v Toulouse (1900)


Le Havre v Nantes (1100), Clermont v Montpellier (1300), Lyon v Brest (1845)

AFP photo