Lyon coach Gerard Houllier is confident his side can open their campaign with a win over Real Madrid Stade Gerland, but the former Liverpool boss is not expecting a repeat of last season’s comprehensive victory.
Twelve months ago, Lyon began the group stage with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Madrid courtesy of goals from John Carew, Juninho Pernambucano and Sylvain Wiltord.
However, after real invested heavily in the summer under new coach Fabio Capello, Lyon are expecting a sterner test this evening
“This is a different Madrid,” Houllier admitted.
“They’ve signed five quality players including a centre-back and two defensive midfielders. I expect the game to be much tighter and more tactical from their point of view.”
One of those new signings is Mali midfielder Mahamadou Diarr, who this time last year was representing the colours of Lyon.
Houllier said: “It’ll be strange to see ‘Djilla’ playing against us. He was adored here. But I won’t say it’ll be nice to see him again because I know what an impact he can have on the pitch. Our friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes.”
Jérémy Toulalan will take Diarra’s place, while fellow newcomer Sébastien Squillaci replaces injured captain Claudio Caçapa at centre-back.
“Madrid are good but don’t forget we’re also very strong,” Houllier added.
“The most important thing is that we believe in ourselves. Last season’s campaign has given us more confidence and maturity, and I’m convinced we have enough quality to get a positive result.”
Madrid have been eliminated at the first knockout round in successive seasons, and their new coach Fabio Capello knows an improvement is vital.
“When you are in charge of Real Madrid you know you have to reach the highest standards in every game,” said the former Juventus boss.
“I expect my team to give everything and to fight against a very strong opponent.
“We made a lot of changes in the summer and our team will take time to gel,” he explained.
“I’d rather not be playing such a tough fixture so soon but if we avoid making errors we can succeed. In particular, we must be careful not to commit fouls, as Juninho is the best free-kick taker around.”
With Ronaldo missing through injury Capello is expected to make just one alteration from the side that beat Levante at the weekend, with Cicinho coming in for the injured Míchel Salgado.
Grégory Coupet; Anthony Réveillère, Cris, Sébastien Squillaci, Eric Abidal; Jérémy Toulalan, Juninho Pernambucano, Tiago; Sidney Govou, Florent Malouda; Fred.
Iker Casillas; Cicinho, Fabio Cannavaro, Sergio Ramos, Roberto Carlos; David Beckham, Mahamadou Diarra, Emerson, Antonio Cassano; Raúl González, Ruud van Nistelrooij.