Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Champions League Preview: Lyon v. Barca

Round 1 of the Champions League tie between Olympique Lyonnais and FC Barcelona takes place today at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon, kicking off at 2:45 (EST).

Les Gones. Blaugrana. Claude Puel. Pep Guardiola.

These two clubs met last year in the group stage, with a 2-2 result in Lyon and a 3-0 Barcelona victory at the Camp Nou. What awaits them this year in the knockout stage, with Round 1 today and Round 2 on March 11th? In their domestic leagues Lyon has been dominating all competition and holds a 6-point lead at the top while Barcelona have struggled slightly but still remain in first place by 7 points.

The talk coming into this match has definitely been the "poor" form of Barca, who drew 1-1 with Real Betis and lost their derby match against Espanyol 1-2. But this is the Champions League, where Barcelona have a far better record than Lyon. Although the latter club have played in the European competition for the past 6 years, they have never been to the final while Barcelona won in 1992 and 2006 (where, sadly, they defeated Arsenal 2-1 at the Stade de France) and finished 2nd in 1986 and 1994. In this year's competition, Barcelona are the leading scorers as a club, although Messi and Benzema are tied with 5 goals each for individual honors.

Lyon gaffer Claude Puel has made an attempt to downgrade expectations by publicly stating that he feels Barcelona are the best club in the world. To his own team, however, he has stated that they should focus more on their own strengths rather than those of the Blaugrana, noting that both Benzema and Juninho are capable of changing any match. On the opposite side of the pitch Messi will be hoping to play as well against the French club as he did against Les Bleus in the February 11th friendly between Argentina and France.

Lyon come into the match without Clerc and Reveillere, so I would expect the following line-up:
Lloris, Gassama, Grosso, Mensah, Boumsong, Ederson, Toulalan, Makoun, Juninho, Keita, Benzema

Barcelona are missing Abidal, Iniesta and Milito, so I anticipate the line-up as:
Valdes, Alves, Sylvinho, Puyol, Pique, Toure, Keita, Xavi, Messi, Eto'o, Titi

My prediction? I see a 1-1 draw at the Stade de Gerland today, with goals coming from Juninho and Messi. Round 2 will see a 2-0 Barcelona victory, with goals from Eto'o and Titi.


Mike Georger said...

Glad to see France is approaching Scotland status as far as leagues with Champions who have no shot in blue hell of being important in the Champions League. Move over Holland, there's a new kid on the block!

Precious Roy said...

Just you wait until Second Choice Steve gets Twente in the CL. Oh wait, he was there this year with them.

Andrew said...

Even at full strength, does OL even have a chance?

The NY Kid said...

I think they do, but obviously I am biased (although they are not my preferred French club). The backline tandem of Gross and Mensah (if his head is in the game; i.e. no one makes monkey noises at him) is very solid, and Juninho, Keita, Benzema are a potent strike force (with Juninno as the attacking mid). Their biggest concern is the defensive midfield, where I personally think that Toulalan is useless and Ederson is a fake Brazilian.