First knockout round – first leg
Lyon coach Alain Perrin has told his players to put their domestic troubles behind them and welcome the challenge of facing Manchester United in the Champions League first knockout round.
Lyon slumping to a sixth league defeat at Le Mans last weekend, and although they stay top, Saturday’s result allowed Bordeaux to cut their lead to one point.
Perrin acknowledges that Lyon must improve but denies that the criticism has placed his players under increased pressure.
“We’re under pressure because we’re playing quality opponents, not because we lost our last match,” he said. “Everybody at the club wants us to reach the quarter-finals and this is an ideal opportunity to produce a positive reaction.”
“They’re one of the best teams in Europe. They like to control proceedings and dominate their opponents. It’ll be up to us to try to unsettle them from the start.”
Skipper Cris is in the squad for the first time since tearing knee ligaments in August, but is not yet match fit, and with centre-backs Anderson and Patrick Müller injured, Jean-Alain Boumsong partners Sebastien Squillaci in the heart of Lyon’s defence.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson enjoys an embarrassment of riches with Owen Hargreaves, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tévez are pressing for a return to the starting line-up after being rested in United FA Cup demolition of Arsenal at the weekend.
Ferguson has hinted at starting roles for Scholes and Giggs, with the latter poised to join an élite band of seven other players who have appeared in 100 Champions League matches.
“Only a few players reach that milestone,” Ferguson said. “Ryan has been an absolute model during his time with us. Ambitious players always want to play in the biggest competitions and he has often saved his best performances for the big occasions.”
“I saw parts of Lyon’s game with Le Mans and I know it was a disappointing result for them,” he said. “This is a big match and a difficult match for both teams. There will be a good atmosphere, the pitch is good and I think it will be a really good match.”