European Football Preview: Can Lyon make it a perfect week?
After shocking Manchester City on Wednesday, Lyon have the chance to make it a perfect week with victory in the Olympico, while there are good bets to be had in the Inter Milan and Bayern Munich games, says James Horncastle ...
Few expected Lyon to perform as well as they did given the backdrop of their league form this season.
Perfect week for Lyon?
Lyon v Marseille
Live on BT Sport and Betfair Live Video
Lyon are no strangers to big European nights. You only need think of how they used to torment Real Madrid. But this is a fresh group of players, 10 of whom are 24 or under, and the financial landscape has changed dramatically since they were last in their pomp and in the midst of seven-year title winning streak.
No one symbolises how stratified European football has become more, perhaps, than their opponents on Wednesday night, Manchester City [and Lyon's Ligue 1 rivals PSG]. And for that reason the shock 2-1 win at the Etihad attains greater significance still.
Few expected Lyon to perform as well as they did given the backdrop of their league form this season. Bruno Genesio's side are seventh and drew with Caen last weekend. This after losing to Reims and Patrick Vieira's Nice too. Outstanding on Wednesday, Lyon could have been 3-0 up had Memphis Depay not hit the post on the hour-mark. Nabil Fekir was brilliant, scoring a goal and assisting another, which makes you wonder why Liverpool pulled out of signing him in the summer. "We are very proud," Genesio said.
Less proud of his players is Marseille coach Rudi Garcia who had 40 minutes to find a winner against 10 man Eintracht Frankfurt but ended up losing after a horrendous error by Nemanja Radonjic in the 89th minute. It's a blow to Marseille, who can't allow it to affect their otherwise excellent domestic form. Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin scored a couple of beauties in last weekend's 4-0 win against Guingamp to keep OM in second.
Marseille's record away at Lyon is poor, though. It's approaching 11 years since they last won an Olympico at the old Stade Gerland in Ligue 1 and given the morale around the Parc OL at the moment, returning home with a win seems fraught with difficulty. Back Lyon @ [2.06]
Can Inter build on Spurs win?
Sampdoria v Inter Milan
Live on Eleven Sports and Betfair Live Video
Luciano Spalletti hopes Tuesday's stoppage time win against Tottenham constitutes a turning point in Inter's season. The Nerazzurri have disappointed in Serie A, taking only four points from four games, after generating a lot of hype in the summer. The euphoria caused by their comeback in the Champions League promises to lift the mood and establish the conditions for this temperamental side to kick on.
But Samp will be quietly confident of bringing Inter back down to earth with a bang on Saturday. OK, they lost 5-0 to the Nerazzurri at Marassi in March. But that result felt like an aberration. Only Juventus and Napoli had better home records than Samp last season and it was fun watching them turnover the big boys on a regular basis in front of the Gradinata Sud.
A thoroughly deserved 3-0 win against Napoli before the international break indicates that, despite having the spine of the team ripped out over the summer, this side still means business. Marco Giampaolo deserves a huge amount credit and is keeping Sarrismo alive in Serie A with his own take on the work of Maurizio Sarri.
In light of the reputation Samp have at home, it's a surprise to see Inter as short as [1.89] for what would be their first league win of the season. I'd recommend taking a punt on Samp whenever one of the big six rolls into Genova. It'd be rude not to when the odds are @ [4.6]
Kovac impressing at Bayern
Schalke v Bayern Munich
Live on BT Sport and Betfair Live Video
A top of the table clash last season, strangely this fixture now pits top against bottom. Runners up in May, Schalke are only ahead of Bayer Leverkusen on goal difference after losing every game so far this term.
It's up to Domenico Tedesco to evolve a team that extracted the maximum with the minimum in his first year in Gelsenkirchen. Success was marginal. Schalke did nothing elaborate. Only the essential, setting themselves up to be hard to beat and putting an emphasis on set-pieces. If the football isn't free-flowing and chances are at a premium then you have to take them when they come. But nothing is clicking for Schalke up front this season. And when they have scored, silly mistakes have let them down. Veteran centre-back Naldo gave away two penalties against Porto on Tuesday and deserved to be named the Portuguese's Man of the Match.
Meanwhile everything is rosy at Bayern. Nico Kovac has exceeded expectation since making the step up from Eintracht Frankfurt and the club wants everyone to know how impressed they are. Bayern have a perfect record under Jupp Heynckes' successor with six wins from six and the mood in the camp couldn't be better.
Kovac is a quick learner as he showed by bouncing back from defeat to Bayern in the league to upset them in the Cup final at the end of last season. He isn't afraid to take big decisions like leaving Mats Hummels and Arjen Robben out of the starting XI for Bayern's season opener against Hoffenheim. And he has gained the players' trust by engaging in regular dialogue with them.
The rehabilitation of Renato Sanches, who started and scored on his return to Benfica in midweek, is much appreciated by the Bayern board who must have feared the €35m midfielder was a lost cause.
Bayern trounced Schalke 3-0 at the Veltins Arena last year. Ten days later they fired Carlo Ancelotti. The environment around the team is healthier now and as such you fear for their opponents on Saturday evening. Schalke will have to raise their game and should keep faith in Breel Embolo. He came on against Gladbach last weekend and scored, and found the net again when Porto flew into Gelsenkirchen in midweek. With that in mind why not take Both teams to Score @ [2.06]
Back Lyon to beat Marseille @ [2.06]
Back Sampdoria to beat Inter @ [4.6]
Back Both teams to Score in Schalke v Bayern Munich @ [2.06]