World Cup winner Nabil Fekir is poised for his first Olympique Lyonnais appearance of the season when OL entertain Strasbourg on Friday evening in Ligue 1 Conforama.
Fekir’s return comes at the right time for OL following the shock 1-0 loss at Reims in Week 2. Coach Bruno Genesio said: “Nabil is ready to start the match and to put in at least an hour of very high quality. It was better to take our time with him, even if we would have liked to have had him with us from the start of the season. He wasn’t ready physically. It’s never easy but he’s now over the disappointment of the transfer to Liverpool falling through. He’s Lyon captain, he’s at home and playing for a club that’s qualified for the Champions League. This could be a very important season for Nabil. I haven’t seen any attitudes or signs that make me think he won’t live up to his role the way he did last year.”
Fekir netted a PB 18 Ligue 1 Conforama goals last term and his return will bolster a usually prolific attack that backfired at Reims, failing to score in the league for only the second time in 27 league outings. Genesio commented: “We must show a reaction. We lacked acceleration and didn’t make runs in behind the defence. We didn’t take risks. Nabil can bring those things to our play and we need to do more in the final 25 metres. We need to find a way of breaking down defences that are well set up and find solutions.”
At the other end of the field OL can count on the return of goalkeeper Anthony Lopes following the Portuguese international’s lengthy suspension. Genesio said: “I would like to underline the good performances of Mathieu Gorgelin who did his job. Anthony Lopes being back is important for us as he’s got a role as a squad leader. He has a personality. I sense that he’s impatient in the right way.”
Denayer: “I’ve got athletic qualities”
OL this week completed the signing of Belgian centre-half Jason Denayer. After penning a four-year deal, Denayer said: “The desire to come to Lyon didn’t date from yesterday. It’s been in my head for several years. The coaching staff know my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve got athletic qualities and I’m good with the ball at my feet. OL is a club that has great visibility and that was important to me as I try to break back into the national squad. I’m capable of playing on either side at the back in the centre and I’m ready to play.”
Strasbourg were close to making it two wins from two at the start of the season, only to concede a late equaliser at home to Saint-Etienne last Sunday, something that infuriated coach Thierry Laurey, whose midfielder Adrien Thomasson required 18 stitches to a facial wound sustained against Les Verts and may require a protective mask in order to feature against OL. Forward Martin Terrier could play for OL against the club where he spent last season on loan.
Laurey: “It’s infuriating”
Speaking after the Saint-Etienne equaliser, Laurey said: “It’s infuriating because we didn’t see it through with rigour through to the 93rd minute. It hurts to have lost the two points but there are still a lot of games to be played. If you’d said to me at the start of the season that we’d have four points from two games then I’d have signed up straight away. But, at the same time, we need to raise the bar in terms of how demanding we are.”