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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Lopez filling boots of Benzema at Lyon

Lisandro Lopez has taken just a few games to convince Olympique Lyon fans there is life after Karim Benzema.

Argentina striker Lopez, who signed from Porto during the close season, has played two Ligue 1 games and both legs of a Champions League playoff, scoring five goals and setting up several more.

Lopez has proved a suitable replacement for France striker Benzema, who scored 37 league goals for the side over the past two seasons before leaving for Real Madrid.

The bearded 26-year-old could well be on target again when Lyon, in second place two points off Girondins Bordeaux after three matches, welcome Nancy on Saturday.

"He's intelligent, he knows how to adapt to our playing system and he has a very interesting range," Lyon coach Claude Puel said. "He's not only a useful scorer but he's also very good at setting up others. He's a complete football player."

Seven-times champions Lyon are fighting to recapture the crown they lost to Bordeaux in May and kicked off the season with a 2-2 draw at Le Mans. They have stepped up a few gears since then, beating Valenciennes 1-0 before winning 3-0 at Auxerre.

They have also played well in Europe, booking their place in the Champions League group stage in style by sweeping aside Anderlecht 8-2 on aggregate.

Lopez was involved in four of Lyon's goals in a 5-1 home demolition of the Belgians, then scored a hat-trick in their 3-1 win in the return leg on Tuesday. Bordeaux, however, boast a player every bit as dangerous as Lopez - perhaps even more so.

France playmaker Yoann Gourcuff has scored four league goals already for the champions, the only side on maximum points from three games, and all eyes will be on him when Bordeaux visit fourth-placed Marseille on Sunday.

Gourcuff, whose side will try to extend their record of consecutive Ligue 1 victories to 15, recognised Marseille's strength and said their coach Didier Deschamps knew all about soccer at the highest level.

"It should be a great match," Gourcuff told French television channel Canal Plus. "We'll take it very seriously. We know our run of wins will have to end one day but we want to make it last for as long as we can."


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