Lyon’s home game against Caen on Saturday is destined to be an emotional affair, with club captain and talisman Juninho set to play what many expect will be his final game for the club.
The 34-year-old Brazilian midfielder has played a key part in each of Lyon’s seven championship-winning seasons since arriving in 2001 but says that Saturday night’s match at Stade Gerland will probably be his last in Lyon’s colours.
“I could stay for another year next season, I could play my last match against Caen, I don’t know,” he told Europe 1 radio on Thursday.
“The likelihood is that I will leave, because there is a group that has been here for a long time and there are people who will be able to assume their roles more easily next season.”
Lyon have slipped off the pace this season and cannot extend their record-breaking domination of Ligue 1, but Juninho produced a reminder of his gifts with a trademark free-kick in the 3-1 win at Marseille last weekend.
It was his 99th goal for the club – and, remarkably, his 44th from a free-kick – but after removing his shirt in celebration he was booked and will therefore miss Les Gones’ last match of the campaign at Toulouse.
Lyon coach Claude Puel, whose side are four points clear of Paris St-Germain in the race for Champions League qualification, has urged his side to focus on the task in hand.
“Any other result but a victory will put us in a difficult position for the last day and the trip to Toulouse,” he said.
Caen cannot afford to be distracted by the occasion as they are just one point above the drop zone with two matches to play.
They require one victory to secure their top-flight status, but after Lyon they face a home game against title-chasing Bordeaux on the season’s final day.
Perhaps the weekend’s biggest game sees west meet east in the battle to avoid relegation, with second-bottom Nantes crossing the country from the Atlantic coast to play third-bottom Sochaux.
Nantes, champions in 2001, will join already-relegated Le Havre in the second tier if they lose and Caen and St Etienne, who visit Auxerre, both avoid defeat.
“The next match is a final,” said Nantes coach Elie Baup. “We only took a point against Rennes (in their last match), which presents us with a big challenge: we must win at Sochaux.”
The Ligue 1 title can also be decided this weekend, as one of the closest title races in recent history approaches its climax.
Bordeaux lead Marseille by three points at the summit, and if Laurent Blanc’s side beat Monaco, who announced this week that their coach Ricardo will not be offered a new contract at the end of the season, and Marseille fail to win at Nancy, Bordeaux will be champions for the first time since 1999.
“From now on, the cards are in our hands,” said Bordeaux full-back Franck Jurietti. “We have to be confident in our role as leader.
“First we have to win against Monaco. We’ll look out for Marseille’s result, but only then will we have time to think about the last match.”
PSG travel to Valenciennes looking to keep the pressure on Lyon in the battle for third place and in an interesting sub-plot they will be up against a coach, Antoine Kombouare, who is set to take over as their manager next season.
Nancy v Marseille, Auxerre v St Etienne, Bordeaux v Monaco, Le Havre v Lille, Le Mans v Grenoble, Lyon v Caen, Nice v Toulouse, Rennes v Lorient, Sochaux v Nantes, Valenciennes v PSG
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