Stuttering Lyon still on course to make history

April 13, 2006

PARIS, April 13 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon will be glad they are playing Paris St Germain on Sunday and not Tuesday after midweek exits in the Champions League and French Cup.

'Tuesdays mean trouble for us. We shouldn't play on Tuesdays,' chairman Jean-Michel Aulas said.

In consecutive weeks, the Ligue 1 leaders, who are at most two points away from a record fifth successive title, failed in their bid for a first semi-final appearance in the Champions League and were knocked out of the French Cup.

Late defensive errors allowed Inter Milan to score twice for a 3-1 win at the San Siro last week in the Champions League second leg and a blunder by goalkeeper Gregory Coupet proved to be Lyon's downfall on Tuesday against Olympique Marseille.

Coupet, in line to be first choice for France at the World Cup, misjudged a cross and Senegal striker Mamadou Niang scored Marseille's winner, shattering Lyon's bid to lift the French Cup for the first time since 1973 and claim their first double.

'I'm downcast and the players are downcast because even if we weren't at our best we had the means to go through,' coach Gerard Houllier told a news conference on Wednesday after his team's 2-1 home defeat.

'When a team are playing well and lose, it's always dangerous,' the former France manager said.

Chairman Aulas said he wanted the Lyon players, coaches and officials to put their disappointment behind them.

'We are still in a position to make history. We are going to play yet another final in Paris on Sunday,' he said.

Lyon are on target to beat the record of Saint-Etienne and Olympique Marseille who both won four championships in a row from 1967 to 1970 and 1989 to 1992 respectively.

However, they face a tricky game at the Parc des Princes.

PSG, who qualified for the Cup semi-finals thanks to a 2-1 win at home to Lille, are unbeaten in seven league matches.

They are still hoping to sneak into a Champions League qualifying berth and are looking for stability after being sold by pay-TV channel Canal Plus to a group of foreign investors.

Lyon could even win the title on Saturday without kicking a ball if second-placed Girondins Bordeaux fail to beat Lille.

Third-placed Rennes, who have their sights on a place in the Champions League preliminary round, travel to Nice on Sunday.