Mission: Stop Lionel Messi And Co. Three Reasons Why Lyon Can Beat Barcelona In The Champions League
FC Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais play the second leg of their Round of 16 Champions League tie at the Nou Camp this week, with the scores tied at 0-0 after a stalemate at the Groupama Stadium in February.
Barcelona, the five-time European champions, should enjoy the home advantage on the Mediterranean coast. The blaugrana, with the peerless Lionel Messi, are once again top of La Liga and seemingly heading for their fourth league title in five years.
Ernesto Valverde’s side are hoping to reach the last-eight in the Champions League for the 12th consecutive season.
Lyon meanwhile are battling for a Champions League qualification spot in Ligue 1 with Lille and Olympique de Marseille.
This is Les Gones’ first Last 16 appearance in the premier European competition in seven years, knowing that a result against Barca will allow them through to the Quarter-Finals for the first time since 2009/10.
Before the mid-Feb meeting, the two sides had met six times, with Barca undefeated, having won four and drawn two. The most recent victory came almost exactly a decade ago, in a 5-2 victory.
It seems the odds are in the home side’s favour but with both sides unbeaten in the competition so far, here’s why Lyon could produce an upset in Spain.
Lyon’s European Form And Current Champions League Unpredictably
A fortnight of remarkable comebacks; is this the most open Champions League tournament in recent memory?
Juventus beat Atletico Madrid this week, overturning a 2-0 deficit suffered at the Wanda Metropolitano in February, to register their first victory over Los Rojiblancos and seal passage through to the next round with a 3-2 aggregate result courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo hattrick.
Last week we also saw Manchester United complete a remarkable comeback against PSG, as well as Ajax cutting through Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu after initially suffering a 2-1 home loss.
Incredibly, Lyon have just one victory in the tournament so far, coming in their opening game against competition favourites Manchester City at the Etihad. A scoring draw at the Nou Camp will allow Lyon through to the last eight.
Technically they could be course to win the competition by winning just one game in 90 mins!
Echoes of Portugal at Euro 2016?
Furthermore, Lyon have lost only one of their last eight European away fixtures (W4 D3) and haven’t suffered defeat in any of their last five in the UEFA Champions League, having won two and drawn three.
Memphis Depay & The Returning Nabil Fekir
The former Manchester United forward Memphis Depay has reinvigorated his career at Lyon since moving to France at the beginning of 2017. The Dutchman can claim the second most assists in Ligue 1 this season with eight (after Angel di Maria went ahead on nine in PSG’s midweek victory at Dijon), as well as the joint-second highest in the Champions League this season, with four. The 25-year-old also loves turning up for the big occasions.
Lyon fans be overjoyed to welcome back the talismanic Nabil Fekir, who was suspended for the first leg. The France World Cup winner has nine goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.
Counter-Attacking Threat And Efficiency
Barcelona enjoyed 61% possession at the Groupama and had 25 shots in goalkeeper Anthony Lopes’ direction.
Similarly back in September, City enjoyed an overwhelming wealth of possession, close to 70%, had by far the more shots, but couldn’t stop a brilliant visiting performance that allowed Lyon all three points and converted two of their four shots on target. Fekir was the architect of the opener after stealing the ball in midfield for an exquisite cross for Maxwel Cornet to bury, stunning the dominant Cityzens.
A more even match on home soil still allowed City to enjoy the majority of possession, and yet again, Lyon converted 50% of their shots on target in a 2-2 draw.
Hopefully for manager Bruno Genesio they’ll be as clinical against Barca, with a wealth of attacking options including Depay, Bertrand Traore, and Moussa Dembele - their top goalscorer this season.
And One Reason Why They Won’t….
Barcelona's last home game with French opponents was against Paris Saint-Germain. They produced the biggest comeback in UEFA Champions League history to win their 2016/17 last-16 tie against Les Parisiens. A 4-0 first leg loss at the Parc des Princes in Paris, Barca shook football to its core with a historic 6-1 win on home turf. The last (and only) time they suffered defeat at Camp Nou to a side from France was 35 years ago, to Metz.