Sports Mole previews Friday’s Ligue 1 clash between Lyon and Ajaccio, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
The 2022-23 Ligue 1 season begins with Lyon hosting newly-promoted Ajaccio at the Groupama Stadium on Friday night.
Les Gones failed to qualify for Europe during a disappointing 2021-22 season, while their visitors have made their return to the top flight after a nine-year absence.
With less than a year left to run on his existing deal with Lyon, the pressure could hardly be weighing heavier on the shoulders of Peter Bosz and his side to demonstrate a marked improvement on their performances in 2021-22.
Inconsistency blighted the seven-time French champions throughout the previous campaign, and having also been outclassed and outfought against West Ham United in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, there will be no continental football on the menu for Lyon this term.
Losing to Anderlecht and Willem II without scoring a goal – while conceding a grand total of eight – represented quite the embarrassment for Lyon in pre-season, and questions about Bosz’s tactics supposedly arose from those within the Gones playing ranks.
However, Lyon proceeded to beat Feyenoord 2-0 and draw 2-2 with Inter Milan in their final two friendlies and ought to draw inspiration from the return of Alexandre Lacazettewho has been handed the captain’s armband straight away following his return from Arsenal.
Last term, Lyon ended the 2021-22 Ligue 1 season with four wins from their final four home matches – striking three goals in each game and totaling a whopping 17 in the process – and keeping hold of Lucas Paquetafor the time being, only spells success for the hosts.
After eight seasons, two third-placed finishes – one in the curtailed 2019-20 season – and a couple of relegation scares, Olivier Pantaloni finally succeeded in his bid to return Ajaccio to the promised land of Ligue 1, as they secured the runners-up spot behind Toulouse in Ligue 2 last season.
Incredibly, this week’s visitors to the Groupama Stadium achieved automatic promotion with only 39 goals at the correct end of the pitch to boast about – by far the fewest in the top six – but a steadfast defense conceded a league-low 19 in their own box .
One would therefore expect high-scoring goal fests to be off the menu when Ajaccio are in town, as L’ours prepare for their first season back in the top flight since being relegated in the 2013-14 campaign, and Pantaloni previously achieved a 16th -placed finish in the top flight in the 2011-12 season before returning for his third spell in 2014.
A frequent goalscorer for Ajaccio during his playing days, the 55-year-old has brought in some much-needed Ligue 1 experience in the forms of Thomas Mangani and Romain Hamoumaas well as welcoming Clement Vidal to the club from Montpellier HSC to reinforce the defense.
Ajaccio faced Ligue 1 opposition in Lorient during pre-season and came away with a 1-1 draw, and they faced Lyon as recently as March 2021 in the Coupe de France, but they were comprehensively beaten 5-1 by Les Gones.
Lyon pre-season form:
Ajaccio pre-season form:
Lyon head into the opening day without the services of left-back Henrique due to suspension, so new signing Nicolas Tagliafico should be given the chance to strut his stuff on his competitive debut.
Corentin Tolisso is not expected to make his debut just yet after arriving from Bayern Munich with an injury, while Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Maxence Caqueret are in the same boat, but Lacazette will lead the line after recovering from a bizarre incident in which he was reportedly attacked by wasps.
Moussa Dembele was also the subject of stings but is also set to feature, while 19-year-old Johann Lepenant – who has signed from Caen – played the full 90 against Inter and will hope to make an impression here.
As for Ajaccio, Pantaloni does not have any suspension concerns to factor in for the opening day and should be working with a fully-fit squad for Friday’s showdown.
Hamouma and Mangani are both expected to be handed starts in the visitors’ starting XI, with a probable 4-4-2 formation seeing the latter partner up with Bevic Moussiti-Oko.
Lyon possible starting lineup:
Lopes; Gusto, Mendes, Lukeba, Tagliafico; Aouar, Lepenant; Tete, Paqueta, Toko Ekambi; Lacazette
Ajaccio possible starting lineup:
Leroy; Alphonse, Vidal, Gonzalez, Diallo; Bayala, Mangani, Marchetti, Spadanuda; Hamouma, Moussiti-Oko
We say: Lyon 3-0 Ajaccio
One can only begin to imagine the murmurs of discontent which will become apparent if Lyon fails to kick off the opening day with a convincing win, but we do not expect any shocks at the Groupama Stadium.
Pantaloni already has experience of managing in the top level and has a wealth of veteran players with knowledge of the top flight, but their steadfast defending from 2021-22 will count for naught against a reinvigorated Lyon crop, and their goalscoring problems will not be solved overnight either.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home Win:data