MONTREAL – Alessandro Nesta's much-anticipated Montreal Impact debut should bring back some fond Champions League memories.
Montreal are facing Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday at Stade Saputo (7:30 pm ET, TVA Sports), a team that the legendary Italian center back helped eliminate in the quarterfinals of the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League as a member of Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan. Nesta played every minute of the tie, but the scenario will not be repeated in Montreal.
With the Impact’s sights already on Saturday’s home game against the New York Red Bulls, and Nesta still building his match fitness, head coach Jesse Marsch intends upon giving no player more than 45 minutes on the field. It has been confirmed, though, that Nesta will start.
“I feel good, and I hope I feel good tomorrow,” Nesta told reporters on Monday. “I only worked for two weeks, and I hope to do 45 good minutes.”
For Marsch, who has fond memories of playing his childhood favorite club Milan – and Nesta – as a Chicago Fire player, the friendly will be an opportunity to give minutes to players coming back from injury including Nelson Rivas, Matteo Ferrari and Andrew Wenger. The rookie will be paired with Marco Di Vaio up front at kickoff.
On the Lyon side, Saturday is also in the bull’s-eye. The French perennial title contenders will face Montpellier at Red Bull Arena for the Trophée des champions and are looking to use Tuesday’s match as an actual preparation after two fitness-oriented friendlies against Spanish sides Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad.
“The previous two games, the objective was to take a look at everybody,” Lyon manager Remi Garde said. “I have a lot of young players at my disposal; I’ve got almost 15 from our academy, so I wanted to see them with our pro group, not our reserves as usual. This last game is more important to us, so some players might play a little longer, some others will remain on the bench. … The result will be important to me.”
French international Yoann Gourcuff, who was man of the match in the first edition of the Trophée held in North America as a member of Bordeaux (a 2-0 win over Guingamp at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in 2009), never would have thought, three years ago, that he would cross paths with former Milan teammate Nesta on his return to the Québec metropolis.
“He needs no introduction,” Gourcuff said of Nesta. “He’s a top, top player. He has great intelligence. He’s an ordinary guy, and it’s great to be alongside such great players. My two seasons with him, we won trophies and I learned a lot.”