After Prague, OL now head off for Toulouse, where they will return to Ligue 1 duties against a side who have lost their last four matches... OL will be defending top spot on the table on Sunday night before heading to Marseille for the postponed match on Wednesday night...
Apart from Lisandro's ankle injury, OL's Europa League trip to Prague to take on Sparta was full of positives. OL clinched top spot in their group. The youngsters gave an excellent account of themselves. And Rémi Garde managed to rest several key players including Bisevac, Lacazette, Gomis, Dabo, Gonalons and Malbranque... The injured players (Lovren, Bastos, Briand) spent the time getting back to fitness. So there will be real freshness in the OL line-up, although the remarkable Anthony Réveillère is out htrough suspension.
Perhaps OL will no longer be the league leader when they step out onto the pitch, at The Sadium, but they can certainly re-take pole position at the end of 90 minutes. Although being on top of the table at this point of the season may seem somewhat trivial, it does lend some comfort to OL as they head into a hectic month of December with some big fuxtures on the menu. OL are still undefeated on the road this season; OL have scored at least one goal in every away game; OL who haven't won any of their Ligue 1 matches directly after a Europa League appearance (draws with Lille, Lorient and Sochaux). All this shows the solidity of the OL squad without suggesting that it will be one-way traffic against Toulouse.
OL will be taking on a side whose form has dipped considerably of late. 19 points taken from their first 10 matches... and nothing since then. Since their 3-1 win over Brest, the TFC have conceded six goals while scoring just two in the course of three defeats (against Bordeaux, Ajaccio and Nice). They have gone from second place, three points off the lead in Week 9 to ninth place, six points behind OL - who stil have a match in hand! And that's not mentioning their last-16 elimination from the Coupe de la Ligue, 1-0 against Lille. So Toulouse are doubtless looking to set the record straight against a side they have become something of a bugbear for in recent seasons. With a host of internationals in their squad, Toulouse have what it takes to get back on track... even against the league leaders.
Rémi Garde knows this, having left The Stadium last season after a 3-0 loss. Even without certain key attacking elements (Briand, Bastos, Lisandro) and the resolute Réveillère, he will still have room to make some careful selections, especially in central defence and in midfield.
There's no denying that this clash with Toulouse comes at a good time for OL... everything's looking pretty good for the seven-time French champions... let's just hope it lasts.
Toulouse FC-OL, Sunday at 17:00 CET