Lyon have a momentous task at hand as they host Ajax on Thursday in the second leg of the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League.
Lyon have a very slim chance of making it to the finals of the UEFA Europa League. The French giants were dismantled in Netherlands by a young and exciting Ajax lineup that has done the same to every opponent they have faced in the knockouts this campaign.
Both the teams also have something to fight for in the league as well. While Lyon are gunning for a top-four finish, Ajax are very much in the title race and are just a single point adrift of leaders Feyenoord.
Ajax warmed up for the match with a thumping 4-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles over the weekend while Lyon managed to overcome Nantes by 3-2 to gain some traction ahead of the midweek fixture.
Ajax take a 4-1 lead to France as we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the all-important second leg of the semi-final between the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Bruno Genesio has a lot to mull over as the injuries are starting to pile up. Corentine Tolisso, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Mouctar Diakhaby all missed the match over the weekend, and are doubts for the match against Ajax. Genesio’s problems aren’t helped by the ineligibility of Memphis Depay to represent Lyon in Europe this season.
However, their main miss would be Alexandre Lacazette. The talismanic striker was absent in the first-leg of the tie and could be a sore miss, if he was to be unavailable for the second leg as well.
A lot of Lyon’s slim hopes of qualifying depend on the Frenchman and Genesio may even risk the player if he gets fit in time, regardless of whether he is 100% fit or not.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lopes; Jallet, Mammana, Nkoulou, Morel; Gonalons, Tousart; Cornet, Fekir, Valbuena; Lacazette
Peter Bosz’s men are comfortably placed, both on the basis of the first-leg result and the comparably non-existent injury headaches ahead of the tie. Nick Viergever and Joel Veltman’s return would boost the defence after the duo missed the first-leg due to suspension.
Captain and midfield general Davy Klaassen was brought off by Bosz at half-time over the weekend in an attempt to preserve the player for the tie and the playmaker will be key once again if Ajax are to dominate the proceedings similar to how they did in the first-leg.
Daley Sinkgraven is the only doubt for the game for Ajax. However, all eyes will be on Hakim Ziyech. The Moroccan dazzled in the first-leg and created a record with 3 assists in a single tie in the semi-finals of a European competition as he ran the Lyon defence rampant.
Chelsea loanee Bertrand Traore, who also contributed in the first-leg with a poacher’s brace, is also set to start and could again be a menace for the Lyon defence with his clever movement and ability to play off his teammates.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Onana; Veltman, Sanchez, Viergever, Riedewald; Klaasen, Schone, Ziyech; Traore, Dolberg, Younes
1. Ajax have failed to register a win in their last five away fixtures in European competitions.
2. Lyon need to win by a margin of 3 goals to secure qualification to the final. But, Ajax have not been beaten by a margin of 3 goals or more in Europe for more than 6 years – the last one being a 3-0 defeat to Spartak Moskva in the Round of 16 of the 2010/11 campaign.
3. Ajax are undefeated against Lyon in their last five competitive matchups.
4. Lyon have scored 3 or more goals 12 times this season and Alexandre Lacazette has scored in all but 2 of those matches.
5. Kasper Dolberg has been in scintillating form of late, with 8 goals and an assist in his last 10 appearances in all competitions.
Player to Watch
Lyon have an already insurmountable three-goal deficit to claw back into. However, the away goal they captured could play an important role. But, in order for it to be influential, Lyon will have to stop the marauding young attacking army of Ajax, which could prove to be a tough task.
Anthony Lopes, hence, could be the difference-maker on the night. Ajax are sure to create opportunities on Thursday and it will be up to the 26-year-old to guard the Lyon goal and foil the Dutch giants’ chances of earning an away goal, which would neutralise Lyon’s away-goal advantage.
The custodian has already kept 16 clean sheets this season in all competitions. However, he has failed to record a single shutout in the Europa League and will be eager to put on a display come Thursday.
Lyon 3 – 1 Ajax
Lyon have managed to score 3 goals quite a number of times this season (12) and Alexandre Lacazette’s presence could push them to do the same. However, Ajax are a quality attacking unit and coupled with Lyon’s inability to keep a clean sheet in the competition this season, we could very well see Ajax score one, if not more on Thursday.
Lyon are expected to come out victorious on the night. But, as they say, Ajax will be the one winning the war, even if they do end up losing the battle on Thursday.