Barcelona will turn their attention towards the UEFA Champions League, as they gear up to take on Lyon in the Round of 16 stage first leg.
La Liga champions Barcelona will embark on a trip to France as they are set to lock horns with Ligue 1 giants Lyon in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday night.
Barcelona made it through to the knockout phases of the competition with little fuss as they coasted through the group stages unbeaten (W4 D2), topping Group B, which also consisted of the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven.
Ernesto Valverde’s men have hit a patchy run of form of late and had drawn three games in a row in all competitions, before they returned to winning ways against Real Valladolid this past weekend, albeit in an unconvincing fashion. They will be aiming to shrug off recent performances and enter the second leg at home with a significant advantage.
Lyon also went unbeaten through the group stage of the Champions League (W1 D5), having been involved in a number of high-scoring draws, while they defeated English champions and eventual group winners Manchester City in a convincing manner.
Bruno Genesio’s men come into the game having lost just one of their last nine matches across all competitions, with their latest game ending in a 2-1 win over Guingamp. Having held their own against Manchester City in the group phase, the French outfit will back themselves to push Barcelona at home and come out with a positive result.
Team News & Tactics
The biggest setback for the home team for Tuesday’s encounter is that captain and chief creator Nabil Fekir is suspended for the game. Midfield mainstay Tanguy Ndombele is also a doubt for the tie as well as Jason Denayer, while Amine Gouiri and Rafael are set to miss out with injuries.
Having made a few changes to the starting lineup against Guingamp, Genesio is expected to field his strongest lineup against the Catalans. Fekir’s absence might also force the manager to tweak his tactics a bit, setting up his team in a 4-3-3 formation.
Anthony Lopes is a guaranteed starter in goal, with Leo Dubois and Ferland Mendy set to take up the full-back slots on the right and left flanks respectively. Marcelo will hold on to his spot at the heart of the Lyon defence, but Jeremy Morel could come into the team with Denayer’s availability in question.
Ndombele should feature in the middle of the park if there is the slightest chance of him being fit. Rising star Houssem Aouar and Lucas Tousart should complete the three-man midfield for Les Gones against Barcelona.
Up ahead, Memphis Depay should be reinstated on the left flank despite Martin Terrier’s goal-scoring display against Guingamp. Maxwel Cornet and Bertrand Traore will battle for the starting spot on the right wing, with the former likely to get the nod. Summer signing Moussa Dembele will spearhead the attack for Lyon.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lopes; Dubois, Marcelo, Morel, Mendy; Ndombele, Tousart, Aouar; Cornet, Dembele, Depay
Brazilian midfielders Arthur Melo and Rafinha remain sidelined for Barcelona, along with backup goalkeeper Jasper Cillesen. Furthermore, the Catalans have decided to leave out Thomas Vermaelen from the travelling party, along with Jean-Clair Todibo and Sergi Samper. However, the biggest news is that Samuel Umtiti has travelled to France for the contest against his former club.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is an automatic pick in goal for Barcelona in Lyon. There will be a couple of alterations in defence, however, with Nelson Semedo set to replace Sergi Roberto at right-back, while Clement Lenglet will come in place of Vermaelen. Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba should hold on to their spots in the backline.
Sergio Busquets will continue to play the defensive anchor role for the visitors against Lyon and will have his task cut out to keep the likes of Aouar and Ndombele quiet.
The seasoned campaigner will need all the support he can get from Arturo Vidal, who hasn’t been in the best of forms of late. Ivan Rakitic will complete the three-man midfield for Barcelona, replacing Carles Alena, who featured at the weekend.
Luis Suarez should return to the starting XI for the tie, after featuring from the bench against Valladolid. Club captain Lionel Messi is a guaranteed starter on the right flank, while Ousmane Dembele is expected to pip Philippe Coutinho for the starting berth on the left.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal; Messi, Suarez, Dembele
- The last competitive encounter between Barcelona and Lyon came ten years ago in 2008-09, at this stage of the Champions League, with the Catalans running out comfortable winners (6-3 on aggregate).
- Lyon have made it to the knockout phases of Europe’s premier competition for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
- Barcelona are in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 15th consecutive season. The last time they failed to make it past the Round of 16 stage was in 2006-07 when they were eliminated by Liverpool.
- Lyon conceded 11 goals in the group stages of the Champions League this season. That tally is the highest among the 16 clubs that are left in the competition.
- Barcelona striker Luis Suarez has failed to score or set up a goal in his last 1,418 minutes of play away from home in the Champions League. His last away goal came in September 2015 against AS Roma.
Player to Watch
As is the case each time Barcelona walk out onto the pitch, all eyes will invariably be glued on a certain Lionel Messi. The 31-year-old superstar was the difference for the Catalans against Valladolid this past weekend, dispatching a penalty to fire them to a win. With that goal, Messi took his tally for the season to 30 goals and 17 assists in just 30 matches in all competitions.
The little magician is capable of single-handedly carrying his team across the finish line, as he has proven time and again for so many years now. And, with Luis Suarez not in the best of form and Ousmane Dembele only returning from an injury recently, the onus will be on Messi to make sure that Barcelona come away from Lyon with an advantage.
Lyon 1-2 Barcelona
Lyon come into the game on a solid run of form, having lost just one of their previous nine matches in all competitions. The Ligue 1 outfit have proven themselves to be more than capable of holding their own against big teams, having beaten PSG and Manchester City this season.
However, their defence had been found lacking at times during the group stages, with the likes of Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk scoring past them easily.
And given the quality that this Barcelona forward line possesses with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, along with the Brazilian flavour that Philippe Coutinho and Malcom would provide from the bench, they should be able to come away with an important win from France on Tuesday night, despite their indifferent recent form.