Lyon hoping Fekir, Depay rise to the occasion in Barcelona

The Catalans are unbeaten in their last 29 home games in the competition, winning 26 of those

Afp March 12, 2019
The Catalans are unbeaten in their last 29 home games in the competition, winning 26 of those. PHOTO: AFP

LYON: Lyon go to Barcelona for their Champions League last 16, second leg on Wednesday hoping to pull off a shock result with the tie still open after a goalless draw in France last month.

The odds appear stacked against the French club -- it is nine years since they won a Champions League knockout-round tie, while Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 29 home games in the competition, winning 26 of those.

Bruno Genesio's team could also be without their influential Brazilian centre-back Marcelo after he pulled up injured at the weekend, but they do have two potential match-winners further forward.

Lyon's prospects of a top-three finish in France and a return to next season's Champions League were compromised in a 2-2 draw at Strasbourg on Saturday. Genesio rested a host of key players and the move backfired as OL surrendered a two-goal lead in the second half.

Nabil Fekir was one of those who started the game on the bench, although he came on late as Lyon looked for the winner.

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The club captain is Lyon's main man, and one for the big occasion after featuring for France on their run to World Cup glory last year.

Scorer of 12 goals this season, the 25-year-old was missed in the first leg against Barcelona as he served a suspension but will be back in an attacking midfield role on Wednesday.

"When Nabil is on the field, we know what to expect, he's a great player who gives us reassurance. He has already shown his importance on the European scene," said teammate Martin Terrier of Fekir, who scored in Lyon's 2-1 win at Manchester City in the group stage and also netted the decisive goal against Shakhtar Donetsk that clinched their place in the last 16.

Can he repeat the feat at the Camp Nou?

Lyon's detractors see them as a side who can mix it with the best one week only to go missing in games they are expected to win.

They took four points from Manchester City in the group stage and beat Paris Saint-Germain last month before holding Barcelona in the first leg. But Saturday's match in Strasbourg encapsulated that inconsistency after they seemed to have the points in the bag thanks to Moussa Dembele's double.

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If Lyon's Jekyll and Hyde nature is summed up by one player, then it has to be Memphis Depay.

The Dutchman has relaunched a career that stalled at Manchester United since moving to France for an initial 16 million euros in January 2017. So much so that he recently said in an interview with a Dutch magazine that he wanted "a new transfer to a top-level club this summer. Lyon is a big club but it's not one of the five best in Europe."

Unfortunately, the 25-year-old's comments came in the midst of a goal drought that would last for three-and-a-half months, taking in 17 appearances. However, he broke that by scoring in consecutive games before watching the entirety of Saturday's match from the bench to keep him fresh for Barcelona.

"Throughout the period where he wasn't scoring, he was still helping the team," said Genesio last week.

"Now he has been rewarded for his efforts -- in football, you get what you deserve."

Genesio must decide whether to start the ex-PSV Eindhoven star on the left wing, or use him as a central striker rather than top scorer Dembele.


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