PARIS: Lyon travels to face Paris Saint-Germain enjoying a 10-game unbeaten run and with Memphis Depay finding his best form at just the right time for Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) game.
Lyon reached last season’s Champions League semifinals but did not even qualify for this season’s Europa League. So with no European commitments, it had all week to prepare for this table-topping clash.
PSG played on Wednesday night against Basaksehir, one day later than was scheduled after players walked off on Tuesday in a protest against alleged racist language used by a fourth official.
Although PSG’s defense was hardly threatened against the Turkish side, it has been leaking goals in the league with six conceded in three games. In addition, Depay carries a different threat than the forwards of Monaco, Bordeaux and Nantes.
No player has scored more goals from outside the penalty area than Depay since he started playing in the French league in January 2017. The Netherlands international arrived with low confidence following an unhappy spell with Manchester United, where he managed only seven goals in 53 games.
Among the 49 league goals that Depay has netted for Lyon, 13 have been from outside the penalty area
That’s two more than PSG’s fleet-footed winger Angel Di Maria and three more than Neymar, although the Brazil star landed in Paris several months after Depay was already at Lyon.
Depay’s 13th strike from range came last Sunday in a 3-1 win at Metz, when he received a pass from Karl Toko Ekambi and guided the ball with the inside of his right foot into the bottom corner.
One of his first from distance was a stunning injury-time winner against PSG, one year after joining Lyon and when the seven-time champion’s fans were still undecided about his consistency.
After PSG lost the ball in midfield, Depay received a pass on the wide left. He cut inside, drifted effortlessly past two PSG defenders and, as defender Thiago Silva threw himself in anticipation of a low shot, Depay instead bent the ball with incredible power and accuracy into the top left corner.
That was not even his best goal for Lyon, which came against Toulouse the previous campaign. Depay turned smartly around a Toulouse player near the halfway line and — without even looking up — guided a magnificent lob over the goalkeeper from 46 meters.
But Depay is not just a spectacular scorer, he’s also a great provider and has assisted on 32 goals — meaning he has either scored or created 81 times in 114 league games.
This season he has combined expertly with Toko Ekambi and Tino Kadewere, whose emergence has pushed striker Moussa Dembele — who grabbed 24 goals last season for Lyon — onto the bench.
The trio have combined for 17 goals and eight assists in 13 games so far, so PSG’s defense could be in for a busy night at Parc des Princes if Depay and his teammates are in the mood.
Depay was close to joining Barcelona in the offseason when the Spanish giant was trying to replace the prolific Luis Suarez after his move to Atletico Madrid.
The deal fell through at the last minute, but Depay has since overcome his disappointment to become the on-field leader coach Rudi Garcia needs in a talented but erratic side.
Another big performance against PSG will be the perfect way for Depay to advertise himself once again to Europe’s big clubs, and put Lyon on top of the league.