PREVIEW-Soccer-Brittle Lyon's challenge threatens to fade

PARIS, April 7 Thu Apr 7, 2011 9:10am BST

PARIS, April 7 (Reuters) - Once mighty Olympique Lyon, almost invincible from 2002-08, have suddenly lost that untouchable aura and are showing signs of nerves as their title hopes begin to slip.

Last weekend, Lyon blew a two-goal lead in injury time to draw 2-2 at Nice, leaving them eight points behind leaders Lille.

A few days later, fourth-placed Lyon, who host lowly RC Lens on Sunday, suffered a further dent to their fragile composure.

At training On Tuesday, France defender Aly Cissokho had a heated exchange with an angry fan while Brazilian defender Cris could left team mate Clement Grenier hip and jaw pains after a nasty challenge.

Although Grenier missed Wednesday's training because of bruises, president Jean-Michel Aulas's special advisor Bernard Lacombe played down the incident.

"To me, it's nothing," he said on the club's website (www.olweb.fr). "It was (Cris's) way to show that he did not like what happened in Nice."

Normally unflappable goalkeeper Hugo Lloris did not like what he saw there either and lost his cool after the game.

TV cameras showed Lloris screaming 'We badly screwed up, I've had it up to here with this, holy shit!' in the dressing room after the Nice game.

"He expressed huge frustration. He is a lad who usually keeps things for himself and he just needed to let it go out," coach Claude Puel told reporters.

The atmosphere has been much more relaxed at Lille as the leaders look to extend their winning streak to five matches when they travel to struggling Monaco on Saturday.

Monaco, the 2000 French champions who reached the Champions League final in 2004, lie third from bottom on 32 points, one point from safety.

Lille are expected to welcome back France defender Adil Rami, who suffered a neck injury during Les Bleus's 0-0 draw with Croatia at the Stade de France last month.

Second-placed Olympique Marseille, who are four points behind Lille, host Toulouse on Saturday amid a row between president Jean-Claude Dassier and coach Didier Deschamps over theb's clu recruiting policy for the 2011-12 season.

"I heard the president had the same goal as me, winning the Champions League," Deschamps said last Sunday.

"But (he also said that) the club's policy would be to sign young, talented free agents. It seems to me that both things are hardly compatible."

"We are not going to spend millions and millions," Dassier replied in French media.

(Editing by Alastair Himmer; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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