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Lyon faces Montpellier in crucial Ligue 1 clash as European football remains within reach

European football is not yet out of contention for Lyon after a 2-1 come-from-behind win at Strasbourg last weekend, but it would have done little to soothe the pain from losing 2-1 at home to top-three club Marseille in the prior round courtesy of a stoppage-time own goal. Regardless of that mistake, they can proudly boast the league’s second-best record in April matches (W4, L1), propelling them into May with some excellent form.
They’ll need to be at their best and take advantage of this meeting with Montpellier, currently the lowest-ranked of their five remaining opponents, but Lyon certainly cannot take this fixture for granted. Not only did they lose at home to Montpellier two seasons back despite a top-four finish, but their record this term when hosting clubs currently beneath them in the standings (W4, D5, L2) leaves a lot to be desired.
Furthermore, now is certainly not the time to come across a high-flying Montpellier after crucial wins at home to Rennes (1-0) and away to Monaco (4-0) have handed them a taste for upset victories. That speaks volumes about the professionalism of a side that has long appeared destined neither for European qualification nor relegation, though improving upon their 13th place finish from last season would have been a major objective.
Prior to that win at Monaco, Montpellier had enjoyed just one Ligue 1 away victory against the 13 clubs with at least 40 points to their name at the end of the last round (D2, L6), so the challenge here will be to back it up with what they hope to be a sixth win ‘to nil’ from a period of ten total Ligue 1 away trips since Christmas.
Players to watch: There could be no greater threat than Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, who has found the back of the net in ten of their 16 Ligue 1 home fixtures this season, including his side’s first goal seven times. Montpellier’s Elye Wahi scored prior to Lacazette in the reverse H2H, one of 11 Ligue 1 goalscoring appearances this season (W7, L4).
Hot streak: Lyon manager Laurent Blanc has won all nine clashes against Montpellier’s Michel Der Zakarian (eight for PSG v Nantes and one for Bordeaux v Nantes), with an aggregate score of 25-4.
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