MONTREAL – A thunder storm had brewed just in time for Olympique Lyonnais’ arrival at Stade Saputo Monday evening and the sudden transmogrification was fitting for the occasion as these are turbulent times for the club.
Finishing fourth last season in France’s Ligue 1 means the club will not qualify for the upcoming UEFA Champions League for the first time in 12 years. Despite the team’s troubles, head coach Rémi Garde said in the press conference before practice that the team can still be satisfied with what it was able to accomplish last year.
“Staying at the top and winning continuously is difficult, and our competitors have done really well in recent years,” conceded Garde. “Bordeaux did really well and then Lille and now Montpellier has done great work as well. Little by little we’ve lost our place at the top and these last few years have been difficult, but we can still be proud of winning the French Cup and qualifying to the Europa League which is still a major European tournament”.
Lyon is in town to play the Montreal Impact in a friendly match Tuesday night at Saputo Stadium, a team that Garde was already aware of for some time after having played with former Impact defender Patrice Ferri, who played for Montreal from 1993 to 1995.
"I was a teammate of Patrice Ferri,” said Garde. "He played for the Impact, and he always had great things to say about the club."
Midfielder Yoann Gourcuff won the French Super Cup final in Montreal with Bordeaux in 2009. He played with the Impact’s recent signing Alessandro Nesta at AC Milan from 2006 to 2008 and, Gourcuff’s father, Christian Gourcuff, played his final season of his career with the Montreal Supra in 1989. For these reasons, the 26-year-old said he’s really looking forward to facing the expansion MLS side.
“Here in Montreal, you have some famous players that have recently been signed like Nesta and [Marco] Di Vaio," said Gourcuff. "We are looking forward to the game. My father played here as well and he said very good things about the city and the fans."
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As far as the level of MLS is concerned, Garde explained that it was always difficult to assess the quality of a foreign league, but that given the progress of the American national team it's safe the say the league is making strides.
"The MLS has improved over the years and it's getting closer to the European style," Garde said. "Hopefully against the Impact on Tuesday, they aren’t too close.”
After Tuesday game, Lyon will play Ligue 1 champions Montpellier in New York on Saturday for the French Super Cup title.
- UEFA Champions League