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Barcelona must be careful what they wish for in the Champions League

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Lyon tie won’t be as easy as many seem to think

UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour presented by Heineken - Mexico City Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

So now we know.

A trip to France to face Lyon in February, followed by a Camp Nou date in mid-March.

It’s not the worst tie in the world, but nor is it the best. Those supporters that are cock-a-hoop that Barcelona are only facing Lyon need to take a rain check.

Sure, it’s not Liverpool, who are a major threat to everyone left in the competition, neither is it Roma who, whilst beatable, have the slight upper hand where mind games are concerned.

Lyon are also a worthy Round of 16 opponent who must be paid appropriate respect.

Any team that are able to beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium and then hold them again, deserve a bit more than cursory acknowledgment.

In Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele, they have three front men who can cause Barca’s back line all sorts of problems, because if there’s one type of player that we currently struggle to deal with, it’s an attacker with pace, power or trickery.

Lyon have that in abundance, and let’s be honest, both Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti aren’t the quickest.

Bruno Genesio likes his side to play an expansive 3-4-3, and that gives the French team both width and midfield control when one of the two wide men drop back to make a five.

In the last 19 games in all competitions, Lyon have lost just two, and are only three points off second place in Ligue 1, with a game in hand over Lille.

They’ve only managed to keep clean sheets in four of those matches, mind, an Achilles heel that Barcelona can identify with.

In many respects these two games could hinge on which defence copes best with their rival’s attack.

Barca’s weakness has been exposed time and again this season, but with three clean sheets in the last five matches, maybe the tide is beginning to turn.

Certainly, if the Blaugranes do retain genuine aspirations of success in the competition, the one area they need to work on is defence. And not just centrally either.

Whether it’s Nelson Semedo or Sergi Roberto, and Jordi Alba on the opposite flank, the full-backs need to stop the supply line.

Umtiti/Lenglet and Pique haven’t always been at their brilliant best in 2018/19, but neither should they be expected to be firefighters. If crosses are cut off at source, it will force Lyon to come through the middle and aside from the centre-backs, a Busquets/Rakitic pairing is more than capable of offering protection where needed in that regard.

In summary, it’s an exciting tie and one in which Barcelona will go into as heavy favourites.

However, they’ll need to ensure they don’t allow complacency to creep into their thoughts as they look towards the quarter-finals and thoughts of a Madrid date later in the year.