Olympique Lyonnais have been a European juggernaut in recent years.
The French giants have won four consecutive UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and remain the favourites for the fifth. However, the injury of star striker Ada Hegerberg hasn’t so much thrown a spanner in the works, but rather a sledgehammer.
Lyon have played two competitive matches without their Norwegian star, completing their domestic double by scraping past Guingamp and Paris Saint-Germain on penalties in the Coupe de France Feminine. Despite the distraction of silverware, it cannot be denied that Lyon simply are not the same side without Hegerberg as the focal point.
So, can they really cope without her in the Champions League?
The replacement for Hegerberg over the last two matches has been English forward Nikita Parris. The English forward did score the only goal Lyon managed over the two matches, an 85th minute strike against Guingamp, despite looking unconvincing across the two games.
Parris looked especially suspect in the final against PSG, missing the target on several occasions to as PSG’s stubborn defence held firm. The Lionesses regular has had a decent season domestically, scoring 14 goals in 19 games alongside three goals in four Champions League matches, but there are doubts over her ability to replace Hegerberg.
Manager Jean-Luc Vasseur was facing calls to drop Parris due to her shoddy performance in the final. The England striker was replaced by her compatriot Jodie Taylor for the penalty shootout, though it is understood that the veteran was only brought in to act as cover for Parris and Hegerberg.
Cool for the Sommer
Behind the two English strikers, there is Lyon veteran Eugénie Le Sommer. The 31-year-old has spent the last decade in Lyon, scoring an astounding 268 goals in just 307 matches for the French juggernauts. Despite her playing time being slashed following the arrival of Parris this season, only playing in 16 matches in all competitions. She also wasn’t trusted for the final, starting on the bench and playing the last 30 minutes. She was trusted for Lyon’s fourth penalty of the shootout, though she missed it.
Lyon’s striking options have been devastated by injury, with both Hegerberg and Jessica Silva being forced out of the tournament.
The issue going into the Champions League campaign is that there is no standout candidate for Vasseur to replace Hegerberg. Going by past record, the obvious replacement would Le Sommer. However, she hasn’t played much football this season and looked unconvincing in the final. As for Parris, she has played more football and has scored more goals this season, but she has been seen to crumble under the pressure of big games.
While Jodie Taylor could possibly deputise, she has only recently linked up with the Lyon squad for her short loan spell and it is unclear how she will react to her new environment.
Judging by their short Coupe de France Feminine campaign, Lyon are going to seriously struggle for goals without their star player. This could easily cause the vultures to circle for their crown.
If Lyon do retain their crown, it will be the most impressive of all their titles so far.