Zeffane proving right choice for Lyon

Olympique Lyonnais are producing a stream of talent from their academy and one graduate, right-back Mehdi Zeffane, has been making a name for himself in Europe this season.

Mehdi Zeffane has been impressing for Lyon
Mehdi Zeffane has been impressing for Lyon ©Getty Images

Olympique Lyonnais may not be the French football powerhouse they were until recently, not having the resources of Paris Saint-Germain or AS Monaco FC, but products of the academy they developed in their dominant era are making names for themselves.

To a list that includes Sidney Govou, Karim Benzema and Clement Grenier can be added forward Yassine Benzia, midfielder Corentin Tolisso and defender Mehdi Zeffane, with the right-back set to play a key role on Thursday when FC Chornomorets Odesa visit Stade de Gerland with their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie goalless.

With Miguel Lopes suffering an injury-plagued season, the 21-year-old Zeffane has stepped up and impressed in his first five Ligue 1 outings as a starter. If his star faded a little on 13 February when a rookie mistake prompted Lyon's 2-1 French Cup round of 16 loss to Ligue 2 RC Lens, coach Rémi Garde nonetheless fielded Zeffane in Ukraine last week and he impressed in the 0-0 first-leg draw.

Having played in four of Lyon's Group I games before his knockout stage debut at Chornomorets, Zeffane may feature again in midweek. Lopes and potential replacement Mouhamadou Dabo are both fitness concerns as Garde shuffles his pack in the push for a UEFA Champions League berth and the French League Cup final against Paris on 19 April.

But then, the European competition has been lucky for Zeffane ever since he provided an assist on his continental bow in a 2-0 win against Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC in December 2012. "I'll never forget it – but I need to keep my feet on the ground," he said after that match, and his attitude had not changed following the trip to Odesa: "For me as a young player, it's always very interesting to take part in European games. I'm just at the beginning though."

Zeffane has enough experience to rate Chornomorets as "very strong", adding: "They are slick and well-organised. We might have paid too much attention to defending but it was important not to concede. It was a good result."