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Garde: Briand still has Lyon role to play

Remi Garde has insisted Jimmy Briand can still play a part in Lyon's push for the Ligue 1 title, adding that the France international has not been frozen out of his squad.

Briand, 27, looked likely to leave Lyon last month after the club agreed terms on a loan deal with second-tier side Monaco as part of their bid to reduce their wage bill. The forward even travelled to the principality for a medical before deciding against the switch, and has yet to feature since.

Sidelined with a hamstring injury before Christmas, Briand has publicly stated via his Twitter account that he is now fit. Garde, though, left him out of the squad to face Lorient last weekend, preferring instead to include promising but unproven teenagers Yassine Benzia and Anthony Martial.

"Absolutely not," Garde replied, when asked whether the ex-Rennes man's aborted transfer was the reason behind him not returning to the first-team picture.

"When he came back from Monaco, I told him it wasn't a problem that he'd come back. But it's not because he had come into the squad that he could never go out of it. He's in competition with the others, and there is a huge amount of youngsters who are pushing for a place. I set up my teams to win, and no-one has been frozen out. Of course I'm still counting on him, but he needs to get back into top shape to be able to help the team."

Briand scored a single goal as he featured in ten of Lyon's first 11 league matches of the season, starting five of them, before injury struck. However, his return to Stade de Gerland last month was barely welcomed by the club, who released a frosty statement on their official website.

"Olympique Lyonnais has noted the return to training this morning of Jimmy Briand, and regrets that the player did not come to an agreement with AS Monaco, even though the two clubs had defined the terms of a loan until the end of the season," the press release read.

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