Lyon can secure Champions League return

Reuters, Thursday 16 May 2013

Olympique Lyon are hoping to gain one point at fellow Champions League hopefuls Nice in Ligue 1 on Saturday

Olympique Lyon's Yassine Benzia (R) challenges Ezequiel Lavezzi (L) of Paris Saint-Germain during their French Ligue 1 soccer match at the Gerland stadium in Lyon May 12, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Third-placed Olympique Lyon will be pleased to grab one point at fellow Champions League hopefuls Nice in Ligue 1 on Saturday, although victory could secure their return to the competition next season.

With leaders Paris St Germain already crowned league champions and Olympique Marseille certain to finish second, the race for the third and final Champions League spot is on with two games to play.

Lyon, who missed out on the competition for the first time in 12 years this season, occupy the coveted berth with 63 points, three ahead of fourth-placed Lille, who visit Montpellier, and Nice in fifth. St Etienne are sixth with 59.

The team who finish third will go through the Champions League preliminary rounds while the fourth-placed finishers qualify for the Europa League playoffs.

"We will be happy if we take all three points but if we only manage a draw, we're not going to complain," Lyon's Gueida Fofana told reporters.

"We know that we can widen the gap with Nice but the league won't be over," the midfielder added.

Champions League qualification is critical for Lyon, the only French club listed on the stock exchange, after they posted a 12.7 percent fall in revenue for the first three quarters of their fiscal year despite more than doubling earnings from transfers.

The seven-times French champions, whose early challenge to PSG in the title race faded, have bad recent memories of Nice, where they slumped to a 3-1 defeat in the League Cup last 16 after conceding three goals in the opening quarter.

"It will be a highly charged game," said Fofana, who has played in the right back position in the past few weeks as France's Anthony Reveillere has been dropped from the squad.

Lille hope to leapfrog Lyon into third after beating Stade Reims 3-0 last weekend when all their rivals lost.

"It was a perfect weekend," forward Ronny Rodelin told the club's website (

"It has brought us back in contention. We know that we can beat every team. The squad still believe we can clinch (the third spot). We have to win our games, then see what the others do."

St Etienne, who have already qualified for next season's Europa League preliminary round thanks to their League Cup victory last month, host Marseille.

PSG, who clinched the title with victory at Lyon last weekend, host Stade Brest and hope to have a calm day after violence marred Monday's title celebrations in Paris.

"We'll celebrate. We have worked very hard for two years to win this title, it's normal to celebrate despite what happened. Fans expect to party, so do the players," chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi told daily Le Parisien.

Brest were relegated last weekend, with the two other relegation spots yet to be decided.

Second-bottom Troyes, who are three points from the safety zone on 34, host midtable Girondins Bordeaux while third-bottom Nancy, who have 35, take on Bastia.

Both would be relegated if they fail to win and French Cup finalists Evian Thonon-Gaillard beat Valenciennes at home. (All matches 1900 GMT Saturday)

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