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Barcelona’s Champions League focus shifts to a determined Lyon

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The fierce French side play Barca next

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

Currently sitting in third place in Ligue 1, Lyon have enjoyed a fairly decent season despite suffering some disappointing losses. They have scored 40 goals and conceded 28 so far in the league, and have enjoyed some impressive victories over the likes of Marseille, Monaco and current champions PSG. They also held the resolute Lille to a draw at home.

Their Champions League performance thus far has also been impressive, particularly since Lyon remained undefeated in Group F despite being paired alongside Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk. In what was their standout performance, Lyon stunned the world of football by defeating Man City 2-1 at home with two first-half strikes. Since that result, the question that has been lingering in many fans’ minds is whether or not Lyon can repeat their surprise winning performances against PSG and Man City in this week’s clash with the mighty Barca?

Beginning with an analysis of Lyon’s defence, it’s safe to say that their defensive record is not one to be proud of. They conceded 11 goals in six group games, which averages out at nearly two goals per match. Their 28 goals conceded just 25 Ligue 1 matches shows that their league record mirrors their performance in Europe.

Their poor form at the back seems to be a result of gifting their opposition scoring chances that are both critical and voluminous. With an ineffective 4-3-3 formation, they gifted Hoffenheim 26 shots and allowed them to claw back twice in their 3-3 draw in Germany. In a reverse fixture that proved itself to be even more frustrating, the French favourites gave up a two-goal lead at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais to allow the bottom-placed team in Group F to salvage a shock draw. Such poor defensive form persisted in Lyon’s fixtures against Shakhtar, as they allowed the Ukrainian giants to take 16 shots in their 2-2 draw at home. When Lyon rematched Shaktar in the Donbass Arena, they were still held to a 1-1 draw despite Shakhtar only managing two shots on target.

Olympique Lyonnais v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - UEFA Champions League Group F Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Lyon’s performance against Man City at the Etihad certainly warrants much respect from football fans and professionals alike, however this performance seemed to be an anomaly as their following match at home proved. After Lyon took the lead in the 55th minute, City were able to equalise seven minutes later through an Aymeric Laporte strike. Whilst Lyon recovered their lead in the 81st minute, Man City took a mere two minutes to score a second and secure a valuable away point.

Given the Blaugranes’ impressive tally of 14 goals in six matches in Champions League Group B, along with the fact that many of these goals came against top opposition such as Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur, they have proven that they have the attacking arsenal to rattle the French side. Before entirely disregarding Lyon, however, it is important to note the Ligue 1 contenders’ ability to score against superior opposition.

They were able to score a respectable total of four goals in their two matches against Man City, and while they were thrashed 5-0 away against PSG in their Ligue 1 away fixture back in October, they redeemed themselves through a stunning 2-1 victory two weeks ago in front of their home fans. The fact that their triumphs over these two European giants came months apart is testament to the sustainability of Lyon’s potential to compete with the world’s best, despite not achieving the same level of consistency.

Chelsea v Olympique Lyonnais - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The size of the challenge facing Barca on Tuesday largely depends on which Lyon team shows up on the night. The fact that this is an away match for the Blaugranes only adds to the list of potential difficulties that they may need to overcome. Barca go into the clash as favourites and certainly have the firepower to take on the French giants, however they will need to come out with aggressive attacking intent and ensure that they patch up the weaknesses that have led to their recent slump in form. So long as the Blaugranes put in one of their typical performances this season, they should have what it takes to pick up the result at the Parc Olympique Lyonnaise that paves their way to the Champions League quarter-finals.