After a narrow win against Real Valladolid in the league, Barcelona turn their focus to the Champions League, and the road to Madrid has presented us with a new challenge: conquering the city of Lyon.
With an efficient and able roster, Lyon pose a serious threat to Barcelona’s European ambitions. The French team from the well-known city of Lyon have met Barcelona six times, drawing two and losing four, eventually conceding in all the matches.
While this is the first time they have entered the knockout stages since 2011/12, Barcelona have reached the same stage for the 15th consecutive time, only behind eternal rivals Real Madrid (22). That being said, this fixture looks to be an entertaining and an unpredictable one.
Here are the three things Barcelona need to do to win against Lyon:
Execute vicious counter-attacks
Lyon play a very clean game free from unwanted fouls and cards, and thus chances to score through free-kicks are miniscule. But what they possess in conceding few fouls, they lack in defending counter-attacks. Lyon have been vulnerable in this regard and this is a great advantage for the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Leo Messi (and Malcom if he plays). It may be because Lyon like to play possession football and control the game in the other half, but they are prone to continuous pressure from opponents. For a defensive-minded midfield with the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal, pressurising the opponent won’t be much of a task. Counter attacking hasn’t been Barcelona’s forte but it has certainly proved to be quite handy against big teams. If Barcelona do execute counters thoroughly, they are definitely going to be the first team to score.
Employ a creative midfield
Nabil Fekir has once again been sensational for this team with eight goals and three assists to his name in the league. But Lyon are set to play without their star man as he is sidelined due to suspension. Barcelona already have a creative edge over Lyon, but with Arthur injured, Rakitic and Vidal are tipped to start. While they are very good midfielders, they lack the creative edge that will be needed. So Ernesto Valverde has a critical choice: to play it safe and employ the aforementioned duo or take a risk and put Philippe Coutinho or Carles Alena in the centre of the park. Alena has performed exceedingly well recently and it will be a huge boost for him if he starts an important European fixture. As for Coutinho, the whole world knows what a gifted player he is, if used wisely. Looking at the current run of form the choice is indeed difficult but a creative midfield should be the nod, as it’s not only a risk worth taking but it’s Barca’s DNA. An uninspiring midfield can only take us so far and it’s time we look into our roots for inspiration.
Be careful in the second half
The dream of winning the Champions League hasn’t been easy: Barcelona have scored 14 and conceded five goals in the group stages. The focal point of this discussion is the time in which the Blaugranes have conceded: all five have been conceded in the second half with three in the last 10 minutes. Lyon on the other hand, have scored 12 goals in the group stages, seven coming in the second half and five in the last half hour. This gives an indication that Barcelona have to tread cautiously in the second half. They are known to pass the ball in a much more relaxed state in the latter stages of the game if they are leading but this fixture is a glaring exception. Any stray pass and Barcelona might lose the lead, or to make the matters worse, the fixture. If Barcelona are in complete control over the second half, there’s no one stopping them from winning this fixture.