Lyon, Rennes carrying French hopes in Europe after PSG exit
JC News|March. 08, 2019
Paris Saint-Germain's repeated Champions League failures may reflect badly on French football, but Lyon and Rennes are still both in contention to qualify for European quarter-finals.
PSG are licking their wounds and reflecting on where they go from here after their humiliating exit at the hands of Manchester United in the last 16, one that has damaged the reputation of Ligue 1 abroad.
"The elimination of Paris is not good for our standing in Europe, nor for our image," said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, who took his team to the Champions League semi-finals in 2017.
Jardim expressed hope that Lyon can do better when they face Barcelona away in their last 16, second leg next Wednesday.
A 0-0 draw at home in the first leg means Bruno Genesio's side head to the Camp Nou for the return still in with a chance, even if they are by no means the favourites.
For one thing, they have World Cup-winning captain Nabil Fekir back available after suspension kept him out of the first leg. In addition, Memphis Depay is back among the goals, scoring in each of the last two games after previously going three and a half months without finding the net.
Lyon have already shown in taking four points off Manchester City in the group stage that they can mix it with the best teams on the continent, although Genesio insisted PSG's elimination does not add extra pressure for his side.
"We are competitors and we wanted to qualify regardless of PSG's result, so we will still want to do so. It changes nothing," said Genesio on Friday.
"I was very disappointed for their coach, their players and for French football. It just shows that in football everything is possible and you are never safe from anything."
Before going to Barcelona, Lyon face mid-table Strasbourg at the Stade de la Meinau on Saturday looking to stay on track for a top-three finish in Ligue 1.
OL are five points behind second-placed Lille and five better off than Marseille in fourth -- only the top two qualify automatically for next season's Champions League.
- 'Arsenal remain favourites' -
Meanwhile, Rennes can be optimistic about their chances of progressing to the Europa League quarter-finals after beating Arsenal 3-1 on Thursday in their last 16, first leg in Brittany.
They head to London for the return next week after coming from behind to beat an Arsenal side who played more than half the game with 10 men, although their coach Julien Stephan sought to take the pressure off his team.
"Despite the victory, for me, Arsenal remain favourites given their past and their experience," said Stephan, who was appointed in December.
"The only thing I think is that we will need to score there, at least once, if not twice."
Regardless of what happens in the return, this is already Rennes' best ever European run. To put the result into some context, Arsenal are just one point behind Manchester United in the Premier League, while Rennes are 10th in Ligue 1, 34 points adrift of leaders PSG.
Rennes are at home to relegation-threatened Caen on Sunday, but PSG will not play -- their game at Nantes was postponed with authorities concerned about the impact of ongoing "yellow vest" protests in France. Thomas Tuchel's team will be back in action next Tuesday away at Dijon.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Strasbourg v Lyon (1600), Amiens v Nimes, Dijon v Reims, Monaco v Bordeaux (all 1900)
Montpellier v Angers, Saint-Etienne v Lille, Toulouse v Guingamp (all 1400), Rennes v Caen (1600), Marseille v Nice (2000)
Nantes v Paris Saint-Germain
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