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Why an away goal in Lyon is a must for Barcelona

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The French side will use their pace to exploit weakness

Olympique Lyonnais v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Group F Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The game against Valladolid notwithstanding, Barca enter their most crucial couple of weeks of the campaign.

By the time the Blaugranes have left the Santiago Bernabeu for the second time in three days, we’ll all have a better idea as to how the remainder of our season might be shaping up.

There’s quite obviously a best and worst case scenario, but it’s important that everyone, supporters included, focus on what’s directly in front of the team and not project further ahead.

Lyon cannot be taken lightly in the Champions League.

They were not unbeaten in the group stages, including two games against Manchester City, by sheer luck. On their day, they are as capable as any of the other teams left in the competition.

In Ligue 1 just recently they became the first team to inflict a league defeat on Paris Saint-Germain. With or without Neymar, that’s no mean feat.

Indeed, in their last 30 games in all competitions, they’ve lost just four, and, away from the Groupama Stadium, they’ve failed to score on just three occasions, meaning that an away goal for Barca is imperative.

Bruno Genesio likes his team to play an attacking 4-2-3-1, and Moussa Dembele has hit a hot streak just at the right time as far as Lyon are concerned, with five goals in his last six games.

Memphis Depay offers width and pace down Lyon’s left side, which could prove problematic for Nelson Semedo, and with 11 goals and 12 assists already, he presents another significant threat.

If reported Barca target, Ferland Mendy, is also allowed to raid down that flank, the visitors need to double up as often as possible and ensure that crosses are kept to an absolute minimum.

Olympique Lyonnais v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Group F Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Not to mention the versatility and technical qualities of Nabil Fekir.

Without Arthur centrally to help with ball retention and recycling, Fekir has the chance to dictate things from his attacking midfield berth, and he’s another who carries a goal threat of his own.

To that end, starting with Arturo Vidal to help break up Fekir’s rhythm is a sensible move.

Unleashing Carles Alena later in proceedings, to press high and unsettle Houssem Aouar in particular, could pay dividends as the first leg comes to a close.

Without doubt, Valverde’s game management in this tie needs to be spot on. The coach has generally got things right in 2018/19, even if his style still hasn’t endeared him to the majority of cules.

But it’s do or die now.

Over two legs, Barcelona are still favourites, but simply put, they have to score in France.