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Lyon stepping on the gas again

sports Updated: Aug 21, 2009 10:54 IST

Shorn of the mantle of reigning champions going into a domestic season for the first time in seven years Lyon look to be emerging from the minor trauma of not sweeping all before them last time out.

After Wednesday's 5-1 hammering of Anderlecht in the Champions League qualifiers at the Stade Gerland there seems little likelihood that seven years of famine will follow the seven years of plenty which began with a first ever league crown in 2002.

Third last season, the club then saw the likes of Brazilian midfielder Juninho and star French international striker Karim Benzema move on.

With champions Bordeaux and Marseille back to prominence and Paris St Germain determined to emerge from years in the doldrums, Lyon, who only scraped a draw on the opening day at Le Mans, are fully galvanised once again following their Anderlecht showing, says coach Claude Puel.

"We are starting to get things together and there is plenty of quality in the squad," said Puel ahead of Saturday's trip to 1996 champions Auxerre, who have begun their campaign with two losses.

Juninho may have gone but the club retain a Latin American flavour in the shape of the man who must fill Benzema's boots, 24-million-euro Argentinian forward Lisandro Lopez.

Lisandro is quickly winning over the fans having been involved in three of the goals against Anderlecht while his last-gasp goal at Le Mans avoided an embarrassing first-day loss.

"I am settling down more with every day that passes. I'm very happy with my start to the season," explained Lisandro.

Until 2002 Lyon existed in the shadow of local rivals Saint Etienne, but Les Verts are bottom of the table ahead of a home meeting Saturday with promoted Boulogne and these days they do not even have France striker Bafetimbi Gomis to rescue them after a switch to Lyon which would normally be frowned on by fans none too keen on his former club.

However, a winning goal against Valenciennes and two more against Anderlecht have endeared Gomis to the supporters.

"We are really getting into gear and are sure of our abilities, And spirits are on a high," beamed Gomis after the Belgians were sent packing.

With the club's other signing, Brazilian Michel Bastos, likewise on form Lyon - who will be without thigh injury victim Sidney Govou on Saturday - have thrown down the gauntlet to Bordeaux.

The Girondins will Sunday seek to make it three wins out of three at home to thus far unbeaten Nice.

With a place in the Champions League group phase now all but secured Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas has indicated that "if Claude Puel wants another player we can still recruit."

One name in the frame is Inter Milan's French veteran Patrick Vieira.

Despite their confident start Laurent Blanc's Bordeaux are hoping that they can hang on to star man Marouane Chamakh, touted as being bound for West Ham.

"I'm here for now. I am waiting. If things go well here then maybe I will stay," the Moroccan said this week.

Blanc insists he has a deal with the player that if "a big English club" comes in and puts money on the table then he will not stand in the player's way.

But "this big English club does not exist," according to Blanc.

Marseille, along with Bordeaux and Nancy the third side to have maximum points from two matches, travel to likewise unbeaten Rennes on Saturday while Paris St Germain, four points to date, will seek a second win at Valenciennes, who have two losses already on their slate.

Nancy can stay in pole poition if they win at lowly Le Mans.