An absolutely mouth-watering clash in the Stade Gerland this evening as the Galactico’s of Real Madrid take on the team that got the better of them last season Olympique Lyon. Martin Michelot writer for Ligue 1 Talk is confident of the home sides chances.

At the moment of the draw, Lyon fans wanted to avoid two teams: Barcelona and Real Madrid. The former for all the obvious reasons, and the latter because Real Madrid bears a sense of déjà-vu for Lyon fans. The two teams have played each other 6 times in the past 5 years; Lyon has the bragging rights as Les Gones have never lost against the Madridistas, and dealt the Casa Blanca a serious blow last season by eliminating them at the same stage of the competition. Lyon would eventually exit to the hands of Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.

Lyon will look to repeat this feat tonight, but it would be an understatement to say things have changed since last year. Despite a few good results, Lyon are a team still struggling to find cohesion and consistency, and whose last three games in Champions League have been nothing short of horrendous, which cost the team the first place of their group and a better draw at this stage of the competition.

2011 has been a much contrasted year for Lyon so far. The team has shown flashes of brilliance against Lorient and Nancy, the huge win against regional arch-rivals Saint-Etienne, but has been immensely disappointing in losses to Nice or Valenciennes. It is hard to tell whether Lyon will be in a good or bad day, and this inconsistency has plagued Lyon since the beginning of the season.

However, Lyon is unanimously recognized as being a Champions League powerhouse, and the signs point to them giving Madrid a hard time. The defense is starting to come together with a more confident Dejan Lovren, who, at only 21, has shown some serious class at center-back, combined with the experienced Cris who, along with right-back Anthony Réveillère, will be the only player to have taken part in every game against Madrid.

Jérémy Toulalan seems to have recovered from his World Cup inner-demons and will want to prove that he hasn’t totally lost it, on the field and in his head. A highly touted signing who has so far disappointed, Yoann Gourcuff is finally starting to put his mark on Lyon’s offensive game, and could be a key player in breaking up Madrid’s defense with his pinpoint passing and his disruptive offensive presence.

Finally, in the absence of Lisandro Lopez, Bafétimbi Gomis will have a chance to shine on the big stage in a year that is nothing short of exceptional for him. He has proven to be an able play the target man role, holding up the ball, redirecting it and opening up spaces for Lyon’s wingers (Michel Bastos and Cesar Delgado) on top of being a presence in the box when needed.

If Lyon can monopolize the ball and put pressure of Madrid’s defense, They will have a clear shot at creating a surprise for the second year in a row. Lyon scored 4 goals in their last two games, and will be looking for that same firepower against a Madrid team that seems to be compensating its fear of playing Lyon again by being overconfident and slightly cocky.

That is all Lyon needed to truly believe in its – very real – chances against Real Madrid, even if it does not take a seasoned soccer expert to tell that Madrid’s odds are far better than Lyon’s. But OL love nothing more than being the underdog, in the purest style of French soccer, and are ready to show it once again.

Jose Mourinho is the master of the Champions League, nothing but a win will do for Florentino Perez and the Madrista fans. Ryan Chase dons his Los Blancos shirt and looks at the chances of Real gaining revenge.

This is it folks. We’re here. The game that every Madridista desperately wanted has arrived. Yes, because the opposite side is l’OL that has spanked them several times lately and yes because anything but a victory could quickly start a crisis in the Spanish capital.

With a special record of 15 victories, 8 draw & 7 loss in his 30 games of UCL advanced stages, it’s difficult to think of someone who fits better the job than Mourinho.  “Mou” as they call him in Spain has won a huge experience over the past years, operating in different leagues but always with a very serious way of approaching knock out games.

Mourinho has one of the best squads Madrid has seen in recent years and really could do great things with it. Starting Tuesday against Lyon where every Merengue fan will want revenge or a result at least.

Because as Mourinho said it probably will be the most complicated game they had (Clasico apart) and if he really considers the squad of l’OL stronger than last seasons as he said on TV5, he will go in this first (away) game with caution.

With that in mind, it is unlikely we will see Marcelo & Ramos both starting at full back. The offensive tandem had the Portuguese favor when the season started but lost it after the Clasico. Since then, they only were sided twice together as SB, against Villareal when Arbeloa was suspended & last weekend against a quite inoffensive Levante side at Bernabeu where we can assume that Arbeloa was rested.

A three men midfield is highly possible like it was the case at Auxerre in the UCL group stage or against Atletico & Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey knock out.

Question remains to see if Mou will try to negate a particular side using Marcelo or Di Maria as classic wingers or to simply put more muscle in the center making the question mark on Bastos position less significant.

In any case, the formation would be a 4-3-1-2, with Ozil playing behind a striker duo like Ronaldo and Adebayor. There is also a tiny chance to see Benzema starting but it probably would mean a return to the usual  4-2-3-1 as it’s difficult to see one of the 3 players named above being on the bench. Adebayor will work to push the Center back deeper creating space for Ozil & Ronaldo & the full backs will bring the width.

The biggest threat will come from Bastos inside runs & crosses and Gourcuff’s set pieces. It will also be very important for the Madrid centre backs to cope with Gomis, he is in a good scoring form & the matches the style of striker that caused trouble to Carvalho this season (LLorente, Ibrahimovic & Negredo all did) as well as the two side back & particularly Reveillere who is in excellent shape.

With that being said, Madrid biggest disadvantage will be psychological. Lyon was in semi final last season & has never lost against the Spanish Giant as well as never conceded a goal at home & it will certainly be in the 22 players minds when the game starts.

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s difficult not to see Madrid as the big favorites. They have the starting XI, the depth of the squad & the coach experience required to get through this tie. More importantly they will have surely learnt from the past.


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February 22nd, 2011

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