Gérard Houllier has announced a 19-man squad for Lyon's match in Le Mans. Tiago makes his return, as does Eric Abidal after missing the Auxerre game. Grégory Bettiol, Loïc Rémy and Claudio Caçapa will all play with the CFA team.
Do you think Le Mans will be out for revenge after their 8-1 humiliation at the hands of Lyon on the last day of last season?
No. Just like we weren’t still stewing over our 4-0 loss to Lille at the end of last season. In sport, references to the past are worthless, a waste of time. Sport is all about the present and the future… all the time. For us, each match throws up a certain amount of uncertainty. The players have to be ready for that and make the according efforts. Before you play a Champions League game, it’s always important to get a good result.
Le Mans – OL was your first match on the Lyon bench. Do you feel anything special about returning here?
To tell the truth: no. If I had to pick out something sentimental, I would say Sylvain Wiltord’s goal here… that is still a good memory. Le Mans are a good team with a very dangerous attack. Players like Bangura, Grafite and Fanchone. They have also moved Romaric back to a defensive midfield position to great success. They have won two and drawn six of their home games. They have found the difference between winning and losing, but they could easily have registered at least four more wins out of those six draws. That would also see them a lot higher up the table. This team reminds of the Lens team from last season. This will be like a good Champions League clash and we are aware of that. We won’t be up against the same players that we’ve seen on the videos and DVDs. When we play this type of team their players always lift and play better. We will have to left our game too. OL’s success is due to the fact that we stay humble despite our success. We have enough experience to step back and see things as they are. We want to be the best, but we still have somework to do and that’s what we’re working towards.
Are you surprised to see that Bangoura is the league’s top scorer?
He was injured for a lot of last season. I’ve seen him play on a lot of videos and I know he’s very capable. It’s no harder to prepare a match against him than it is against Pauleta. My players are always very well informed about our opposition. Even when he’s a relative unknown with an important role in the team, we focus on him.
How has the squad been this week?
A lot better. If there was any mental fatigue, it’s gone now. But I’ll say it again: my players weren’t physically tired against Auxerre, otherwise they wouldn’t have defended as well as they did, with as much lucidity and intelligence. Against both Sedan and Auxerre, we didn’t give away many chances.
Do you make a big deal out of your 14-point lead in the standings?
No. We still got four league games, two at home and two away, one Champions League game and one Coupe de la Ligue game – in other words six matches in the next 21 days. We know what we have to do. We have set ourselves goals, amongst ourselves and now we have to meet them. The lead doesn’t count now, it counts at the end of the season. Today, it’s me that agrees with Juninho: the most important match, is the one against Steaua Bucharest.
On a personal note, does beating the record that you set with PSG after 16 games (42 points) interest you?
The only record that interests me is winning a sixth title. Along with the players, we are desperate to do something that’s never been done before. Real champions want to win every time they step out onto the field, no matter what the match. In football, there are champions, but also ‘Super Champions’. Despite all their victories, their trophies and their fame, ‘Super Champions’ always want more and are capable of going beyond themselves to get it. Against Bordeaux for example, I saw Super Champions in my team.
Do you see similarities between this Lyon side and your old PSG side?
The joy of being together, and also the quality of their play, their desire to win. When you are like that, you improve faster, grow faster. That is one of the goals against Le Mans.
How are Fred and Karim Benzema?
They’re going better. I wouldn’t be surprised to get one of them back before the winter break. As for Claudio Caçapa, he’s also a lot better. It’s not impossible that he’ll play a part against Steaua Bucharest.