Lyon hoping to make up ground in French league

BY foxsports • February 18, 2010

Lyon is hopeful of extending its recent good run of form and closing the seven-point gap to league leaders Bordeaux when it visits Sochaux in the French league on Sunday.

The seven-time champion has kept a clean sheet in its last three matches in all competitions, including a 1-0 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League tie Tuesday. That's quite a feat for a club with a porous defense, which has leaked nine more goals than pacesetters Bordeaux.

"Before the second leg, we have some important matches," Lyon manager Claude Puel told the club's Web site. "We must climb back in the standings."

"We've taken 13 points out of 15 in the (French) league in 2010, it's very satisfying but we must be more consistent."

Lyon has the largest budget in France and cannot afford to miss out on next season's Champions League.

It is currently in fourth place with 43 points, one behind Lille in third, and has been criticized in the first half of the season for its uninspired style of play.

"We're winning but it's true that we're struggling to create plays," said Lyon playmaker Miralem Pjanic. "It will come with confidence, and confidence comes with victories."

Sochaux beat Lyon 2-0 at Stade Gerland in October and is undefeated in its last seven games in all competitions.

It is in 13th place in the league with 32 points and is hopeful of securing its place in the league.

"We must quickly get 37 or 38 points, that's where relegation will be played out," Sochaux coach Francis Gillot told the club's Web site.

Last season, the three relegated teams had fewer than 38 points.

Bordeaux tops the standings with 51 points from 24 matches, three clear of second-place Montpellier.

The defending champion was scheduled to play Auxerre on Saturday, but the match has been postponed to allow Bordeaux to prepare for its Champions League tie against Olympiakos next week.

Bordeaux routed Lorient 4-1 in the League Cup semifinals on Wednesday. It will face Marseille in the final on March 27.

Montpellier can go level on points with Bordeaux if it beats Saint-Etienne on Saturday.

Montpellier won its last five league games and has been in the spotlight for remaining in contention for the title so deep into the season.

"We have felt a bit more pressure," Montpellier coach Rene Girard told the club's Web site. "Our team is young and is facing an unusual situation."

Montpellier was in the second division last season and its goal at the start of this campaign was to avoid relegation.

"Seeing many supporters and journalists during practice is a new situation for us, we will have to cope with that," Montpellier forward Victor Hugo Montano said.

Saint-Etienne is in 16th place with 23 points, six above the relegation zone.

It won its last three home matches in all competitions.

"There has been a new momentum since the change of coach," Saint-Etienne forward said. "It's like we have started a new season. We manage to be more competitive and to take points. We have become aware of our qualities."

Saint-Etienne was in the relegation zone when it sacked Alain Perrin as coach last December.

Also on Saturday it's: Boulogne vs. Le Mans, Grenoble vs. Valenciennes, Lens vs. Monaco, Nice vs. Lorient, and Paris Saint-Germain vs. Toulouse.

On Sunday, fifth-place Marseille hosts Nancy and Rennes faces Lille.

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