Lyon on brink of crisis ahead of derby

LYON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - With grim faces on the pitch, a few angry fans and reporters galore, Tuesday's training session showed Olympique Lyon on the brink of crisis before they take on arch-rivals St Etienne in Ligue 1 at the weekend.

Lyon, champions seven years in a row from 2002, lie 17th in the standings ahead of Saturday's clash with neighbours Les Verts, who went top of the table for the first time in 28 years last weekend.

Chairman Jean-Michel Aulas launched the week with stinging comments, hinting coach Claude Puel could be fired next month.

"If after 10 matches, our results are not good, we will have to change something," he told reporters.

"I do not think it is the right moment (to make changes). After playing Arles-Avignon in mid-October, we will also have played three Chammpions League matches and therefore have a more global view."

Little wonder more reporters than usual turned out at the Tola Vologe training camp on Tuesday. Although there were less supporters than in the club's hey-day, the few who came were more raucous.

"Puel resign!" they chanted. "Lose the derby so he will get out of the way."

Puel, who used to conduct training sessions among the players, stayed behind the railings. After the session, he was the last one to come out of the dressing room.

"Morning, ladies and gentlemen," he told reporters before skipping the press conference.

Reporters had to make do with a single player, central defender Pape Diakhate, who joined Lyon in August on a season-long loan from Dynamo Kiev.

The choice could have been newsworthy given the Senegal international spent last season on loan at St Etienne, but he produced a perfect show of hackneyed soccer tongue.

"Things are looking good because most of the players are available," he said, omitting that Argentina striker Lisandro Lopez, France playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and French international Aly Cissokho missed training with injuries.

"Supporters have the right to express themselves. That's soccer. We are not going to make a fuss about it. Our faces were grim? It's normal. You don't go back to training laughing," he added.

"We all support the coach. He is serene, as usual. There was no rollicking in the dressing room. We have to carry on working and results will come."

St Etienne, who have 13 points from six games, have not won the derby since April 1994 - 21 games - and could be without the league top striker Dimitri Payet, who netted six but is doubtful because of a muscle injury.

Olympique Marseille, eighth on eight points, are expected to welcome back France striker Loic Remy, who could make his debut at the Stade Velodrome when the champions host Sochaux on Saturday.