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Feb 25, 2013

Lyon camp feeling confident

Lyon remain convinced they can still upset the odds and pip Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title this season.

Amid the media frenzy surrounding David Beckham's PSG debut in Le Classique against Marseille on Sunday, Lyon's 3-1 victory over Lorient earlier in the day almost went unnoticed.

But it was a far from insignificant result as it pulled Remi Garde's men level on points with PSG at the top of the table before Carlo Ancelotti's side eased clear again with a 2-0 win.

"It's a good victory. We needed it for our position in the table," Lisandro Lopez, who played in his preferred central role and scored his team's equaliser, told OLTV.

"Our mental strength helped us. I feel good physically, and I'm back playing where I like to. I'm even happier to get a victory. I've always said that I'm playing to be champion, all the while knowing PSG were there. As long as we have a chance mathematically, I'll believe."

Maxime Gonalons shares the Argentina international's faith and told Le Parisien that although a top-three finish remains the minimum goal, Lyon must now be considered serious title challengers.

"We can't hide away any more. I must say honestly we've never talked about the title, but now we're coming into the final straight," he said.

"There are only 12 games left. If we continue like this, we'll achieve our objectives, perhaps even more. We only have the league to play for now. That's why we're going to give it our best shot."

Few outside the confines of Stade de Gerland give Garde's men much chance of overhauling Ancelotti's squad, however.

Financial constraints have meant Lyon have had to trim their playing staff, allowing experienced figures such as Michel Bastos, Kim Kallstrom and Hugo Lloris to leave.

The club have instead had to blood the untested products of their youth academy while gambling on veteran Steed Malbranque.

Before the start of the season, many expected them to struggle to reproduce last season's fourth-placed finish, which meant no Champions League football for the club for the first time since 2000 but did bring Europa League qualification.

Their ambitions in that competition were ended by a last-gasp strike from Tottenham's Moussa Dembele last week, but Alexandre Lacazette told L'Equipe the team's displays in their agonising 3-2 aggregate defeat may be the boost they needed after a post-Christmas slump.

"It was difficult to take getting knocked out with a late goal like that and the two free-kicks in the first leg, but the squad wasn't affected," he said. "It wasn't the same feeling as losing to Apoel Nicosia last season, because this time we played well.

"We were less annoyed with ourselves as we had the satisfaction of knowing that we're back playing the way we know we can as we'd lost that a little bit. That's what's done us good, because - for a time there - we had lost everything."

After successive defeats, consecutive league wins with seven goals scored and just one conceded suggest Lyon are back on track.

With PSG scheduled to arrive at Gerland on May 11, three games from the end of the campaign, Lyon have their destiny in their own hands.

Lacazette said: "We're a united group, we're together. That's what will perhaps make the difference."

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