OL-PSG: Lyon aspires to reaffirm its hold on this “continental classic” and the Women’s Champions League

They don't leave each other anymore

OL-PSG: Lyon aspires to reaffirm its hold on this “continental classic” and the Women’s Champions League

They don't leave each other anymore. Since 2014, Olympique Lyonnais (OL) and Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) have faced each other six times in the Champions League. Saturday April 20, in Décines-Charpieu (Rhône), and Sunday April 28, in the capital, the two best clubs in French women's football will do it again, in the semi-finals, for a seventh European confrontation. Over the years, this Franco-French rivalry has earned its stripes as a “continental classic”, confirms Lyon goalkeeper Christiane Endler. For the Chilean player, Lyon and Paris have been among “the best teams in Europe for years”.

Selma Bacha, her teammate at Fenottes, insists on the “pride” of once again having two French teams in the last four. “We will analyze them well, we know them by heart,” underlines the talented left-hander. The “two teams know each other perfectly,” confirms OL coach Sonia Bompastor, predicting “very close” semi-finals. »

Four times out of six, the Lyonnaises emerged victorious from the clash; and the trend still seems in their favor this season. In the championship, OL are nine points ahead of their rival. “We’re having a good season, we haven’t lost a match,” relishes Christiane Endler. Before specifying: “Our elimination in the Coupe de France [against Fleury] was done on penalties. »

In the Champions League, the Parisians only won against the ogre Lyon in 2014, in the round of 16, and in 2021, in the quarterfinals, before seeing that year the Barcelona girls deprive them of a place finally.

OL want to take the royal road again

In 2016, OL crushed Paris (7-0) in the semi-finals first leg before winning their third Champions League. The following season, the Rhone club won three titles in as many weeks: the French championship and the finals of the Coupe de France and the Champions League – each time coming down to the wire against the Parisiennes. Christiane Endler, who left PSG to join Lyon in 2021, arrived at the capital club a few weeks after these two finals. “It was psychologically hard for the team. They had lost twice on penalties…”, remembers the goalkeeper.

In 2020 and 2022, OL won their seventh and eighth European crowns by defeating PSG in the semi-finals. A royal road that the Lyonnaises “hope to take again this season”, underlines Christiane Endler, who would like to challenge FC Barcelona in the final (which faces Chelsea in the other semi-final).

Injured in Sweden with Les Bleues and withdrew on Saturday, OL striker Eugénie Le Sommer, interviewed by Le Monde at the beginning of April, summed up these successive clashes as follows: “After 2022, it’s a new repetition. Above all, it’s special and weird to play a French team in the Champions League. But when you go far in the competition, you know you have a good chance of facing them. »

The Champions League, the media holy grail

Officially becoming the owner of OL women in February 2024, American businesswoman Michele Kang intends to continue the work of her predecessor, Jean-Michel Aulas, who sold her favorite club in 2022 to another American , John Textor. “Michele is very involved on a daily basis and very ambitious,” observes Lyon technician Sonia Bompastor. She wants to win everything and she knows that in terms of media exposure the Champions League remains the holy grail. When we met for the first time, his priority was to make me understand that this competition was important for Lyon. I understood the message well. »

Last season, shortly before she took up presidential duties at the club, the American witnessed the premature elimination of her protégés in the quarter-finals against Chelsea. “This does not take away from what the club has achieved,” defends Christiane Endler. Winning the Champions League eight times should not be trivialized. With the arrival of Michele, we have the hope of continuing what was done by Jean-Michel Aulas and of doing great things. Show that we are still here. »

For OL, the Champions League remains a special test. “Even if the competition is progressing, when we are Lyon, we start all our seasons with a lot of ambitions because we know that a lot of resources are at our disposal,” says the coach. As at Real Madrid, which holds the record for victories among men (14), in Lyon, Europe has become a tradition.