On taking charge of Lyon this summer, Claude Puel was instructed by the club’s ambitious president, Jean-Michel Aulas, that his long-term goal should be to win the Champions League.
Aulas conceded that a semi-final spot this season would represent progress, but Puel himself is even more ambitious.
“I would have preferred it if he said reaching the final is our objective,” Puel declared ahead of Lyon’s Group F opener against Fiorentina. “When you start a competition you should always aim to go as far as possible.”
“If you want to progress in this competition you can’t only set out to defend,” he explained. “You need to find the right balance between hard work, desire and skill. I had good players at Lille, that’s why we beat Manchester United and Milan. I have good players at Lyon, too, but it’s a question of finding the balance.”
Lyon have been eliminated by Italian opponents twice in the last three seasons, and Puel is only too aware of the threat Fiorentina will pose.
“Adrian Mutu and Alberto Gilardino are exceptional forwards, Mario Alberto Santana is also dangerous with the ball at his feet, and their midfield is hard-working and full of quality,” said Puel, who could use John Mensah or Jean-Alain Boumsong as a makeshift left-back in the absence of injured duo François Clerc and Fabio Grosso.
Speaking in the wake of their 2-1 defeat to Napoli at the weekend, Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli is confident the Champions league will bring out the best in his players.
“It was disappointing to lose to Napoli but that result has sharpened our focus,” Prandelli said. “The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes.”
“This is an important moment for the club and I hope the players approach the game with great enthusiasm,” he added
“You can only play attacking football when you have the ball and we know Lyon are very good at keeping possession. “We’ll have to work hard and make the most of our chances to attack.”