Five time French women's champions, Olympique Lyonnais, begin their quest for more domestic silverware in Strasbourg this Saturday, at 16:00, against promoted Vendenheim...
French champions, European champions and even, for some, World Cup semi-finalists, the 2010-11 season was an exceptional one for OL's women. But now it's once again time for this talented squad, largely unchanged from last season, to start the new campaign as red hot favourites ahead of the trio comprising PSG-Montpellier-Juvisy. Duringthe off-season, only reserve 'keeper Véronique Pons and Norwegian midfielder Ingvild Stensland left Lyon, replaced by Montpellier custodian Céline Deville and youngster Makan Traoré from Le Mans.
And yet there's a certain feeling of stepping into the unknown this weekend as OL travel to Vendenheim. First of all because the Alsacian club has just been promoted to the top flight from the second division and the last time they played, OL ran out comfortable winners 12-0 and then 3-0. Secondly, women's football is currently riding a wave of media and public attention thanks to Les Lyonnaises' success in last season's Champions League and Les Bleues excellent results at the World Cup. In fact, such is the hype surrounding the game that Vendenheim will host OL at the Stade de la Meinau de Strasbourg, and expect more than 5,000 spectators through the gates. "We can't wait to get back into action," said 'keeper Sarah Bouhaddi, for some reason omitted from the World Cup squad. "We'll be playing in a great stadium, bring it on!"
Les Lyonnaises know they will be starting as favourites on Saturday: "They're newly promoted to the first division and they'll want to stay here," warned Amandine Henry. "We're the defending champions and they will do everything possible to cause an upset." After a successful preseason, including matches against several second division sides, Patrice Lair's players will continue to get stronger against Vendenheim, before hosting Hénin-Beaumont the following week and then the international break. In late September, OL has two dangerous away trips, back-to-back, against Montpellier in the league and then Cluj in the Champions League.
Goalkeepers: Bouhaddi, Deville
Defenders: Georges, Viguier, Renard, Bompastor, Kaci, Franco
Midfielders: Cruz, Henry, Abily, Dickenmann, Majri
Forwards: Schelin, Thomis, Le Sommer
Reserves: Peyraud-Magnin, Nécib (return from injury)
Injured: Dusang (knee), Brétigny (knee).