Lyon seek reassurance against Le Mans

February 14, 2008

PARIS, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon will have their minds already set on Manchester United when they visit Le Mans in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

The six-times French champions have worried their fans lately and could use a morale boost before welcoming Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League first knockout round on Feb. 20.

Lyon are four points clear at the top but have failed to convince in their last outings, even in a 4-1 win over Sochaux last weekend that was a lot tougher to get than the score suggests and came after two goals in added time.

Before that they had struggled to beat fourth division Croix-de-Savoie 1-0 in the French Cup and had been held to a 1-1 draw by neighbours St Etienne in the league.

'There are quite a few problems in our game at the moment,' said midfielder Mathieu Bodmer, who scored twice against Sochaux.

'We need to improve fast because Manchester United are in a different league.'

Lyon, who have never advanced past the quarter-finals of the Champions League and are desperate to make an impact in Europe at last, realise they need to step up a gear.

'Collectively we're not as strong as we should be,' said Brazil midfielder Juninho, the Lyon captain. 'We're going through a difficult period and it's time to get out of it.'

At least Lyon can count on France striker Karim Benzema, Ligue 1's top scorer with 16 goals, who has assured them he would not leave the club until they win the Champions League.

Second-placed Girondins Bordeaux, the only side with a reasonable chance of denying Lyon yet another title, will visit Monaco on Sunday.

'We have a lot of confidence at the moment,' said Bordeaux defender Franck Jurietti. 'We don't concede many goals and we don't need many chances to score some,' he told his club's website.

Olympique Marseille, who have climbed up to fifth with a good run of form, entertain arch-rivals Paris St Germain on Sunday.

The fixture used to be a classic but has lost much of its appeal over the past few years with the Parisians, currently 12th in the 20-strong league, no longer among the frontrunners.