Lyon (4-2-3-1): Lopes – Fofana, Koné, Umtiti, Dabo – Mvuemba, Gonalons – Benzia, Grenier, Gourcuff – Gomis
PSG (4-4-2): Douchez – Jallet, Alex, Sakho, Maxwell – Pastore, Thiago Motta, Matuidi, Lavezzi – Ménez, Ibrahimović

Rémi Garde has used a variety of formations over the season, and against PSG he went with a 4-2-3-1 with a double-pivot of Maxime Gonalons and Arnold Mvuemba, Clément Grenier ‘in the hole’, Yoann Gourcuff on the left, 18-year-old Yassine Benzia kept his place on the right of the attack, and after scoring twice against Nancy the previous week as a substitute Bafétimbi Gomis replaced Lisandro López as the centre-forward.

Carlo Ancelotti replaced Salvatore Sirigu, Thiago Silva and Marco Verratti (all suspended), with Nicolas Douchez, Mamadou Sakho and Thiago Motta, and continued with the experiment of Ezequiel Lavezzi on the left-side of midfield, Javier Pastore on the right, with Jérémy Ménez partnering Zlatan Ibrahimović up front.

The normal PSG ‘two banks of four’ had a twist: Concerned by Mvuemba’s playmaking abilities, Matuidi was to engage him immediately, and took up a position in advance of his midfield colleagues.

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In defence normally Lyon’s 4-2-3-1 becomes a 4-4-1-1, but here Garde also did something unusual, his team defended in a 4-3-2-1 formation: Gourcuff and Benzia dropped back deep to cover the flanks and Mvuemba stepped forward, in-line with Grenier, to defend zonally further up the pitch. Roughly speaking, this was Mvuemba on Matuidi and Grenier on Thiago Motta, along with Gomis who intelligently pressed the PSG central midfield, closing any passing lanes through the centre.

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With a five-man midfield denying PSG any space the Parisians struggled to get the ball to their front men and in the first stages of the game, Lyon were clearly the better team. When in possession, Lyon caused PSG problems with Grenier and Gourcuff swapping positions and OL’s fullbacks providing width, whilst for PSG both Ibrahimović and Ménez were conspicuous by their absence with regard to any defensive duties.

Halfway through the first-half and PSG’s game-plan changed: The front pair of Ibrahimović and Ménez started picking up the double-pivot of Gonalons and Mvuemba, interfering with OL’s build-up play, and thus allowing the PSG midfield to track the movements of Benzia-Grenier-Gourcuff much better. In attack, Javier Pastore started to find space between Gourcuff and Gonalons, and PSG’s fullbacks (especially Christophe Jallet) began taking up positions wide and high up the pitch to get around Lyon’s packed midfield. With Maxwell and Jallet receiving the ball in those wide areas OL’s defensive line, which was being held quite high, started to get pushed back and PSG began making chances of their own.

Second-half

With a rough parity existing between the teams at half-time, OL switched to 4-1-4-1 for the second half (Grenier and Mvuemba as inside-midfielders and Gonalons as the holder). PSG enacted a strategy of aggressive pressing high up the pitch, pinning OL in their own half and leaving centre-forward Gomis isolated. Ibrahimović was dropping deeper looking for the ball, and with Pastore tucking-in making an extra central midfielder, PSG were able to take control of the game.

The goal was a result of individual error and the PSG pressing (the move actually started with a Lyon goal-kick), with Gonalons sloppily getting caught in possession by Thiago Motta whilst both OL fullbacks were pushed up the pitch. The ball broke for Ibrahimović and left-back Dabo committed himself, diving in on the Swede (needless to add, but Zlatan skipped past him effortlessly) meaning the centre-backs Umtiti and Koné were pulled across the pitch to their left. After a quick pass inside to Thiago Motta, who found Ménez in space with a first time ball, PSG were ahead with the title in their grasp.

Koné and Umtiti (blue) dragged across to cover for Dabo (red), leaving Ménez (green) in space

Koné and Umtiti (blue) dragged across to cover for Dabo (red), leaving Ménez (green) in space

Lyon do have a severe problem with individual errors from their defenders and yet again it cost them – but it was the pressing from PSG that forced the error from the usually reliable Gonalons.

After playing two formations in the game already, in the 64th minute Garde brought on Lisandro (for Mvuemba) and OL changed again, this time to a 4-4-2. An odd choice as when Garde used 4-4-2 recently against Reims and Sochaux it looked less than impressive – after imaginatively using a 3-5-2 at the Parc des Princes in December it was a small surprise that Garde’s last throw of the dice was to mirror PSG’s 4-4-2.

Yet it wasn’t quite, in the 76th minute Garde brought on 17-year-old Anthony Martial for Benzia, and then in the 82nd minute Fares Bahlouli (another 18-year-old) replaced Gomis and OL reverted back to a 4-1-4-1. The fourth formation of the game for OL.

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