Lyon, Rennes carrying French hopes in Europe after PSG exit

Lyon and Rennes face Strasbourg and Caen in Ligue 1 over the weekend before turning their attentions to Champions League and Europa League respectively.

Paris Saint-Germain suffered a 3-1 second-leg home defeat to Manchester United, to be knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage.   -  Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain's repeated Champions League failures may reflect badly on French football, but Lyon and Rennes are still in contention to qualify for European quarterfinals.

PSG is licking their wounds and reflecting on where it goes from here after the humiliating exit at the hands of Manchester United in the last-16, one that has damaged the reputation of Ligue 1 abroad.

“The elimination of Paris is not good for our standing in Europe, nor for our image,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, who took his team to the Champions League semi-finals in 2017.

Jardim expressed hope that Lyon can do better when it faces Barcelona away in its last-16, second leg next Wednesday.

A 0-0 draw at home in the first leg means Bruno Genesio's side heads to the Camp Nou for the return still in with a chance, even if it is by no means the favourite.

For one thing, it have World Cup-winning captain Nabil Fekir back available after suspension kept him out of the first leg. In addition, Memphis Depay is back among the goals, scoring in each of the last two games after previously going three-and-a-half months without finding the net.

Lyon has already shown in taking four points off Manchester City in the group stage that it can mix it with the best teams on the continent, although Genesio insisted PSG's elimination does not add extra pressure for his side.

“We are competitors and we wanted to qualify regardless of PSG's result, so we will still want to do so. It changes nothing,” said Genesio on Friday.

“I was very disappointed for their coach, their players and for French football. It just shows that in football everything is possible and you are never safe from anything.”

Before going to Barcelona, Lyon faces mid-table Strasbourg at the Stade de la Meinau on Saturday looking to stay on track for a top-three finish in Ligue 1.

Lyon is five points behind second-placed Lille and five better off than Marseille in fourth -- only the top two qualify automatically for next season's Champions League.

- 'Arsenal remain favourites' -

Meanwhile, Rennes can be optimistic about its chances of progressing to the Europa League quarterfinals after beating Arsenal 3-1 on Thursday in its last-16, first leg in Brittany.

It heads to London for the return next week after coming from behind to beat an Arsenal side which played more than half the game with 10 men, although its coach Julien Stephan sought to take the pressure off his team.

“Despite the victory, for me, Arsenal remain favourites given their past and their experience,” said Stephan, who was appointed in December.

“The only thing I think is that we will need to score there, at least once, if not twice.”

Regardless of what happens in the return, this is already Rennes' best-ever European run. To put the result into some context, Arsenal is just one point behind Manchester United in the Premier League, while Rennes is 10th in Ligue 1, 34 points adrift of leader PSG.

Rennes is at home to relegation-threatened Caen on Sunday, but PSG will not play -- its game at Nantes was postponed with authorities concerned about the impact of ongoing “yellow vest” protests in France. Thomas Tuchel's team will be back in action next Tuesday away at Dijon.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Strasbourg v Lyon (1600), Amiens v Nimes, Dijon v Reims, Monaco v Bordeaux (all 1900)

Sunday

Montpellier v Angers, Saint-Etienne v Lille, Toulouse v Guingamp (all 1400), Rennes v Caen (1600), Marseille v Nice (2000)

Postponed

Nantes v Paris Saint-Germain

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