Barcelona’s last 16 first leg against Lyon in this season’s Champions League left a lot to be desired, particularly for the Barca faithful. Despite the fixture taking place at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, the Blaugranes made themselves perfectly at home, with 61% ball possession and an overwhelming 25 shots on goal that put the Lyon defence in the hot seat. Despite such dominance, Barca failed to convert on the night, allowing the match to end in a goalless stalemate. Lets take a moment to reflect on Lyon’s recent form as well as the strengths and weaknesses that they have exhibited since the first leg tie, in a bid to see just how Barca have the edge over their French opponents.
Reflecting on recent results, the multiple French Ligue 1 champions have endured a rollercoaster ride since the first leg clash, starting with a shock 2-0 loss against a struggling Monaco. This was followed by a 3-1 victory over Caen in the French cup, a 5-1 thumping of Toulouse in the league and a 2-2 draw with Strasbourg, where a lapse in concentration saw Lyon give up a two-goal lead within the space of two minutes.
Despite such inconsistent results, the one strength that Lyon have continued to exhibit in recent times is their scoring ability. They have netted 10 times in their last four matches, and have scored a respectable 47 goals in Ligue 1 this season, making them the second highest scoring side in the French top flight. Moussa Dembele has enjoyed moderate success up front for Lyon, scoring 11 in the league and bagging three assists. Nabil Fekir follows closely behind, with nine goals and five assists. He has also excelled in Champions League football, racking up three goals while Maxwell Cornet accumulated the same amount, all of which were scored against Man City. Providing danger from the wing is Memphis Depay, who not only tops the chart for most assists in Ligue 1 this season with eight, but also comes second in the Champions League assists chart with four. Other potential scoring threats include centre-mid Tanguy NDombele, who currently has five assists in Ligue 1, along with Houssem Aouar with three Champions League assists.
While Lyon show much promise on the offensive, the same cannot be said about their defensive abilities. They have conceded six in their last four matches since their first fixture with Barca, while their defensive record in the Champions League this season has been incredibly underwhelming for a team of their stature. They conceded a colossal 11 goals in their six group games, which left them with a measly goal difference of +1. In fact, their goalless draw against the Blaugranes in the round of 16 first leg tie was their first clean sheet in the Champions League, while they have only kept a meagre seven clean sheets in their Ligue 1 campaign.
Unlike their French opposition, the Blaugranes have been in scintillating form since the first leg tie. They overpowered Sevilla 4-2 in a hard-fought away game, while thumping Real Madrid 3-0 and 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey semi final and La Liga respectively. They showed no signs of slowing down in their most recent league game against Rayo Vallecano, in which they emerged 3-1 victors at the Camp Nou. Their only poor result came in the form of a 1-0 loss to Girona in the Copa Catalunya, in which they fielded an inexperienced side comprised of younger players. Looking only at competitive La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League matches, Barca have scored a mammoth 11 goals in their last four, while only conceding three. Lionel Messi remains as clinical as ever with a monstrous 26 league goals and 12 assists, while Luis Suarez too has enjoyed success with 17 goals and five assists. Messi is also tied in second place on the Champions League scorers charts with six goals. Barca’s fullbacks have also been incredibly effective at supplying the goods, with Jordi Alba and Sergio Roberto providing seven and six assists in La Liga respectively.
Barca have also been effective at the back, as while their defensive stats for the season have left plenty to be desired, they have done well to improve their reliability at the back in recent times, even securing back-to-back clean sheets away to Real Madrid. While they do show vulnerability in defence on occasion, they are able to limit their errors to a number that allows them to still come away with three points time and again.
While Barca may provide Lyon with the occasional scoring opportunity on the night, they should still do well to topple the French side despite any potential defensive flaws. They did well to extinguish Lyon’s attack in front of the French crowd in the first leg, only allowing them two shots on target in total, and should certainly be able to up the ante in front of a Camp Nou crowd of over 99,000 fans. Barca’s defence has slipped up on fewer occasions than that of Lyon’s, while their attacking lineup is unparalleled by even some of Europe’s finest. So long as Barca maintain their current form on Wednesday night, they should be able to overcome Lyon with minimal hassle, thus paving a clear path to the Champions League quarter-finals.