Some may say they are "aliens", but Olympique Lyonnais' incredible run in recent years is down to motivation and hard work, according to coach Patrice Lair.
Next Thursday they face VfL Wolfsburg in the UEFA Women's Champions League final at Stamford Bridge aiming for an unprecedented third straight European title, Lyon having gone 118 competitive games without losing other than on penalties. Fresh from clinching a seventh straight league title and reaching the French Cup final again, Lair spoke to UEFA.com about just how Lyon have become such a dominant force.
UEFA.com: Why have Lyon been even stronger this season?
Patrice Lair: First of all, great motivation. We announced during pre-season training that we wanted to win everything. We had come from a season where we won everything and we wanted to stay at the top, so we prepared well and we remained competitors. With the girls, we set ourselves the challenge to win as many games as possible and to achieve our goals.
This season we are French champions already and we will play in the French Cup final. The highlight will be for the third consecutive time, and even a fourth because I wasn't there for the first one, we will play in a Champions League final. This is already a great performance, but it could be even bigger if we manage to win the Champions League for the third time this season. It would be huge.
UEFA.com: How much have you been able to constantly develop your team?
Lair: We have also reached another level in terms of fitness in the last three years. For fitness preparation, along with Antonin Da Fonseca, who has been with me for a long time now, we have made the girls improve. They are going faster and jumping higher now. This allows us to compete with German teams and even to beat them, and I hope it will last. There is also a lot of talent on top of that. Sometimes on bad days they rely on their talent and it often makes the difference when things are a bit more even.
UEFA.com: Would you say Lyon have interrupted Germany's domination of European competition?
Lair: We are disturbing them, that's for sure. We are disturbing them, but we deserve to disturb them because we are working a lot, we invest a lot during the season. Winning a Champions League rewards all the work done during the season, hours of sweating, a few rants sometimes, many things. There are not always easy moments, but we have always known that these different moments help us become even stronger.
There is a real strength in this team. When I look at all the girls that have renewed their contracts at the club – even though they probably had some better financial offers, maybe new challenges as well – they stayed in Lyon because they are good here, they are doing well. We are still very ambitious, we want to keep winning and the team is at the top. This is what brings us all these trophies.
UEFA.com Is it difficult to keep everyone hungry?
Lair: That's my job, I must manage that on and off the pitch. It's up to me to remind them of some values sometimes: humility and respect. To make the girls understand that we have great jobs and that we have incredible working conditions that Mr Aulas has given us, whether it's the equipment or the financial side of it, we don't have the option of being bad on the pitch.
Sometimes some sessions are a bit earlier, some stronger discussions take place, but this is just for the good of the squad, so that we don't fall asleep, so that we stay on our toes and focus on our precise goal, which is to be the best at our jobs. And the best way to do it is by bringing back some trophies for Olympique Lyonnais.
UEFA.com: What will be your message right before the final?
Lair: We have already made history. This time we can really do something that has never been done before. Winning the Champions League three times in a row will never be done again. We are living through a wonderful period and it must continue. Even if people take us for aliens ... No, we are not aliens, we deserve it. The girls deserve it. My squad deserves it and I am very proud to have been at Olympique for the last three years and seen these girls give happiness and, most of all, seen them remain competitors in order to win so many titles.
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