Olympique Lyonnais have won just three of their last eight league games but will look to pick up from where they left off when they resume their UEFA Europa League campaign against Tottenham Hotspur FC on Thursday.
Lyon won Group I with 16 points – more than any other team – and ultimately contributed to the elimination of last season's runners-up Athletic Club. Their domestic form has taken a dip since the turn of the year, however, with Rémi Garde's side now six points off the Ligue 1 summit having been top at the end of the group stage.
"The Europe League is clearly a target for us," said Garde, "but this round won't be easy. We're up against a team in good form in their league who have the quality to play in the Champions League." While Lyon's 3-1 weekend home defeat by LOSC Lille means they have lost two league matches in a row for the first time in nearly 15 months, Tottenham are unbeaten in the Premier League since early December.
"We fell to a good Lille team," Garde, 46, said. "We currently have less confidence in our game. Our first half was poor and it's clear we are in a trough at the moment." Still second in the French title race, though, Garde knows Lyon have work to do if they are to stop the rot. "We'll have to show something more to stay on the podium," he continued.
A reunion with former goalkeeper Hugo Lloris further spices the occasion for Lyon when they visit White Hart Lane on Thursday, before the round of 32 return leg on 21 February. "It will be special for Hugo, especially at the Stade de Gerland," Garde said. "Hopefully he won't be eager to shine, but actually I'm sure he will."
Tottenham will also bring back fond memories for some of OL's older supporters, who might recall the 1967/68 European Cup Winners' Cup round of 16 tie between the clubs. Lyon won 1-0 on home soil before a 4-3 loss in north London secured their progress on away goals.
"Of course I've heard about that," said Garde, a former Arsenal FC player, "but I don't remember how the games went." Another page will be added to the history books this month.