How Lyon's Toko Ekambi & Kadewere Are Pushing PSG In Simmering Ligue 1 Title Race - 9jaflaver

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How Lyon’s Toko Ekambi & Kadewere Are Pushing PSG In Simmering Ligue 1 Title Race

Both forwards are looking to oust the dominant Parisians and could record a statement result at Parc des Princes on Sunday

There’s always that unconscious tendency to root for the underdog; the pony in a contest, due to the subtle joy derived from seeing the little guy get one over the favourite.

While many will scoff at the idea of Olympique Lyon being the competitor with little chance of success — particularly because they’ve won the sixth-highest number of Ligue 1 titles — when you’re without a top flight victory since 2008 and a trophy of any kind in almost a decade, the ‘little horse’ tag is probably suitable.Les Gones may have owned the noughties when they won seven league titles on the trot from 2002 to 2008, but Paris Saint-Germain are clearly the dominant team in France right now, having claimed seven of the last eight Ligue 1 crowns since 2012/13.

AS Monaco were the last side to stop the relentless Parisians when Kylian Mbappe played a central role in supplanting Unai Emery’s team in 16/17.

Since then, however, no side in the division has challenged the super-rich club in three campaigns on the trot.

PSG had a 13-point lead in at the end of 17/18, and it was a 16-point chasm the following year. While last season was curtailed early due to the pandemic, Thomas Tuchel’s team held a 12-point advantage over Olympique Marseille having played a game fewer and were awarded their ninth crown.

This year, though, has a different feel to it.

With the Paris outfit inundated with a range of issues from injuries to key players, coronavirus-enforced absences and an unsettled head coach at the helm, others have sensed their opportunity.

13 games have been played in the league so far but Tuchel’s men are two ahead of Lille and Lyon, who visit Parc des Princes on Sunday night, and one in front of Marseille who have played a game fewer.

Central to Rudi Garcia’s team are Karl Toko Ekambi and Tino Kadewere, who have netted 11 goals combined so far. The pair’s joint-total goal contributions stand at 15, which constitutes 62.5 percent of the team’s entire return of 24.

For the Cameroon star, the integral part he’s played in this year’s seeming title challenge hasn’t only reflected in the raw numbers but the sheer importance of his goal and assists. He’s overcome a slow start in which he fired blanks in the opening four league games of the season, failing to score or set up any in almost two months of top flight action.

The turnaround since October has, in some way, coincided with Garcia’s switch to a 4-3-3, abandoning the usage of three at the back to stunning effect. Having won just one in their opening six games, Les Dogues have accrued 19 from the last available 21 points, largely down to their Central African forward.

Ekambi netted a brace in the 3-2 win over Strasbourg which began the team’s impressive run of results, before netting another pair the following week as Garcia’s men thrashed Monaco 4-1. The former Villarreal man then went two games without scoring and missed one match at Angers through suspension; but Kadewere made sure to take up the mantle, netting three times in as many games.

All three strikes were hugely important, too: the Zimbabwe international netted a brace in Lyon’s second-half turnaround vs Saint Etienne, having come on as a substitute with about 30 minutes to play, while he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Angers the following week.

Since returning from suspension, Toko Ekambi has been extraordinarily talismanic for the Kids, having a hand in all six goals vs Reims and Metz last time out. It led to the Lyon website using superlatives like ‘formidable’ and ‘unstoppable’ to qualify the growing influence of the Indomitable Lion.

He’s only behind Mbappe for Expected Goals this season and tops the non-penalty xG table in Ligue 1 so far, while he sits fifth for Goal-Creating Actions per 90 in the league after the last round of games. Only Memphis Depay (nine) has fashioned out a higher volume of big chances than the Cameroon forward (six) which ranks the attacker joint-sixth in the whole division.

Despite already hitting seven goals this season, only Mbappe (10) and Reims’ Boulaye Dia (eight) have more this term, Ekambi could and should have netted more, but for a combination of poor finishing — he’s missed the most clear-cut chances this season (seven) — and bad luck — having hit the woodwork on four occasions already.

However, there’s also been an element of fortune in Lyon’s run, especially in games vs Saint Etienne and last week vs Metz. The former missed an 88th-minute penalty to equalize while the Kids had an early Anthony Lopes save from the spot to thank before running riot at Stade Saint Symphorien.

Furthermore, a major determining factor in this year’s title race may be continental participation or otherwise and Lyon have seemed to benefit from their non-involvement in Europe. PSG on the other hand have had their squad stretched with the series of games amid injury problems and players contracting coronavirus.

It doesn’t look like Tuchel’s team will run away with Ligue 1 this year as they search for a record-equalling 10th top flight crown, but teams hoping to unseat them will have to prevent the favourites from gaining an advantage from now till mid-February, as they are without European distraction for the next couple of months.Lyon’s four-game winning run and supposed growth will face its litmus test in Paris on Sunday, and Garcia will look to the talismanic Toko Ekambi to cement their reputation as Ligue 1 contenders with a statement performance and, hopefully, a result to match.

source:- goal

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