Lyon keeping eyes on the big prize
Lyon: Champions Olympique Marseille have supped the champagne, the relegated teams have drowned their sorrows but Lyon must maintain a sober approach if they are to ensure Champions League football next season.
Lyon are fourth, two points behind second-placed Lille and third-placed Auxerre, with one game in hand and are desperate for another dose of the Champions League after reaching the semi-finals this season.
They will finish second, and grab a berth in next season`s elite club event, if they win their last three league games, starting at Valenciennes on Saturday (all games 1900 GMT).
"What makes the difference now is mental strength and my players are doing a great job even if they`re tired," coach Claude Puel told reporters after his side recovered from a goal down to beat Auxerre 2-1 at home on Wednesday.
After they were swept aside by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semis, Lyon took a major step towards an 11th successive appearance in Europe`s top competition by beating Montpellier and Auxerre in their last two games.
"When you`re near the end of the season, you have to be strong in mind because you`re not on top condition. You have to show your rivals you want it more than them. We know we`ll have to struggle," goalkeeper Hugo Lloris told reporters.
"Munich is out of our mind, we`ve put that behind us and what we want is to play the Champions League once again. We just need to win our last three games," he added.
Lyon face a seemingly easier task than Lille and Auxerre until the end of the season as they will host mid-table Monaco and already-relegated Le Mans after their game at Valenciennes.
Lille, who last played the Champions League under former coach Claude Puel in the 2006/2007 season, will first have to take on Marseille at home on Saturday.
"We`re fully focused on this crucial game against Marseille and hopefully we`ll achieve something really great on Saturday night," midfielder Ludovic Obraniak told reporters.
Marseille promised they would play as normally as possible despite the celebrations following their first Ligue 1 title since 1992.
"We`ll try to ensure the competition will be as fair as possible until the end," Marseille chairman Jean-Claude Dassier told reporters.
Auxerre host Racing Lens on Saturday after drawing against Marseille and losing at Lyon in their last two games.
"Our fate is not in our hands anymore," Auxerre captain Benoit Pedretti lamented after the game in Lyon.