A big three points will be up for grabs at Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Saturday in Ligue 1 action between Lens and Lyon, both of whom are vying for a spot in Europe next season.
They each came away with victories last weekend, with Les Sang et Or hanging on to a 3-2 win over Bordeaux, while Lyon are tied with Rennes and Monaco for a place in the Europa Conference League, following a 2-0 triumph versus Nice.
After weeks of slow starts, Franck Haise saw his group come out very determined on Sunday, taking a 3-0 lead against Les Girondins with less than a half-hour played.
His team were creative, showing plenty of flow, attacking intent and quality in the early stages, all of which we have not been used to seeing from them in 2022, as those goals were the first ones that they had scored in an opening half since a 2-1 defeat to Nice on December 22.
It appeared as though the players became a little too complacent after the third goal, allowing Bordeaux back into the game, conceding late in the first half and again shortly after the break, as the match turned into more of a mental battle than a tactical one when their lead was reduced to a single goal.
That was only the third victory for Lens in their last seven matches in all competitions, a step in the right direction for this team, who have squandered their share of points in the league.
While they have had plenty of tense moments, struggling to close out a match, Haise is always quick to point out the positive notes following their games, and one big plus for them of late has to be the fact that they are right in the thick of the race for a European place, only a point back of a Europa Conference League position next season.
They seem to enjoy attacking and playing aggressively, which makes them an appealing side to watch, although it has also left them very susceptible in transition, conceding 10 goals in their previous four matches played in all competitions.
While there is plenty of work for them to do on the back end, the results have been generally positive when playing in front of their home fans, winning five of their last eight Ligue 1 fixtures in Pas-de-Calais.
Lyon coach Peter Bosz during the match on January 9, 2022
A much more coordinated press executed by Olympique Lyonnais last Saturday enabled the former seven-time French champions to win for the fourth time in their previous five domestic encounters.
Peter Bosz’s men were able to recover a lot more balls in the middle of the pitch as well as the dangerous areas of the field by surrounding the Coupe de France semi-finalists with three or four players around them.
That kind of all-around performance is what their Dutch coach has been looking for from these players, who are solid when it comes to shutting down a game when they can support and cover for one another, winning three of their previous four fixtures by a single goal.
Before their defeat to Monaco (2-0) earlier this month, Les Gones had proven to be a staunch defensive unit away from home, collecting a clean sheet in their previous two road encounters, failing to drop any of their matches played as the visitors in the final month of 2021 and the opening one of this year.
After conceding three second-half tallies in a 3-2 defeat at Nice in October, Lyon have done a much better job at putting a match to bed when they have their noses in front, unbeaten in seven consecutive domestic affairs when holding an advantage heading into the interval.
It appears as though the return of some of their key contributors, along with their new additions, have brought good chemistry and depth to this squad.