“I’d say it’s definitely been my best-ever season, but I’ll only really be able to confirm that when we’ve played the last match and won the treble.”
The words are those of Lyon’s Swedish forward Lotta Schelin, talking exclusively to FIFA.com about an amazing season in which she has struck 38 goals in all competitions for the French club, her biggest haul since moving there in 2008.
As impressive as that figure is, when you are a member of a side that is sweeping all before them on both the domestic and European front, the hunger for more goals and more success is never truly sated. The winners this year of the French Cup and a second consecutive UEFA Champions League title, Patrice Lair’s charges now have their sights firmly fixed on their sixth championship win in a row, which would secure them a historic treble.
To achieve that, Lyon need to take a point from their trip to second-placed Juvisy on Saturday evening, an occasion that is sure to bring the French season to an exciting conclusion.
*A fierce pace *“Juvisy are a very good side with some good players, and they’ve done brilliantly on a tight budget,” said the 28-year-old Sweden international.
The amateur outfit, which has six French titles to its name, deserve no shortage of praise for managing to keep pace with the mighty Lyon. Unbeaten all season, the first division leaders have scored a barely believable 116 goals in their 21 games to date and conceded a mere three.
We’ve secured two important cups already, and that’s fantastic, but we need to win the league title too.
Juve, as their challengers are also known, have been less prolific in front of goal, scoring 62 goals and letting in 18, but have been almost as hard to beat, losing just the once in the whole campaign, to Saint-Etienne. To win their first title since 2006, however, they must take maximum points in Saturday’s season-ending showdown.
“They’ve got individual match-winners like Gaetane Thiney, but they work really well as a team too,” said the easy-going Schelin, who has a lot of respect for Sandrine Mathivet’s side, which earned two valuable points in a 1-1 draw when the two sides met in Lyon last December (four points are awarded for a win in the French women’s league, two for a draw and one for a defeat).
“I thought we were the better side in that game,” explained the Swedish hotshot. “People who watched the game thought we’d go on to win it, but Juvisy scored from the spot and then defended well. We still managed to equalise all the same and we could have scored again, though they did their job really well. That shows the quality they’ve got.”
*Keep the good times coming *The season’s exciting denouement recalls the end of the French men’s title race just a fortnight ago, when unfashionable Montpellier pipped big-spenders Paris Saint-Germain to the post on the final day. Nevertheless, the Swede is confident that the big guns will win out this time around: “We’ve secured two important cups already, and that’s fantastic, but we need to win the league title too.”
Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas is even pushing the girls to achieve more, challenging them to beat the record seven straight championships won by their all-powerful male counterparts in the last decade.
“It’s not always easy for us to have that obligation to keep on winning and winning all the time,” said Schelin, a compatriot of Kim Kallstrom’s, who had a hand in two of those seven title triumphs. “It’s tough, but we have a coach who’s there to do that, who keeps pushing us on.”
* *While Lyon’s ambition is a key ingredient in their success, Schelin also believes that the competition they face on the home front is not as strong as it could be: “I come from Sweden and things are a lot tighter there. It would be great obviously if the same were true in France. There are some very good players in both countries, but the big difference to my mind is that the teams down at the bottom of the table here perhaps don’t do enough training.”
“In getting into a position to win the title on the final day, Juvisy have shown that you can achieve big things even when you’ve got a lot less resources than we have,” added the ambitious Swede, having the final word. “Clubs in Sweden don’t have so much money but they work hard, especially on fitness and stamina. It’s all about having the right attitude and being professional. It’s not just a question of size.”