Barcelona will be aiming to reach the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals when they welcome Lyon to Camp Nou for their Round of 16 second leg on Wednesday.
The curtains will fall on the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday, with the final two quarter-finalists being identified after the last of the second leg fixtures. One of the games on show on the night will see Barcelona play hosts to Lyon at Camp Nou, hoping to seal safe passage through to the next round.
The Blaugrana made it to the knockout stages of the competition after finishing atop Group B ahead of Tottenham and Inter Milan, and are one of two remaining unbeaten sides in the competitions. The other outfit yet to be defeated in the UEFA Champions League is Lyon, who qualified for the Round of 16 by finishing runners-up in Group F.
Barcelona’s overall form may have been hot and cold, but it has hardly reflected in their results or their standings in the competitions they are a part of. Ernesto Valverde’s men are in the final of the Copa del Rey while being perched atop the La Liga table, where they maintained their seven-point lead over Atletico Madrid with a 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano this past weekend.
Lyon’s form, on the other hand, has been a mixed bag lately, with Bruno Genesio & co. managing to win just three of their last seven games across all competitions (D2 L2). And, as far as the Champions League is concerned, Les Gones have made it a habit to draw games, which might come to their advantage, keeping in mind the away goals rule.
The first leg, played at the Groupama Stadium three weeks ago, ended in a goalless draw, with Lyon putting up a resolute front against their visitors on the night. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Champions League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Rafinha is a certain absentee due to his long-term knee injury while Thomas Vermaelen is likely to miss out owing to thigh strain. But, the pressing concern for Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde surrounds the potential unavailability of Ousmane Dembele, who is struggling with a minor hamstring complaint.
Valverde iterated that the Frenchman will be subjected to a late fitness test to determine his availability for Wednesday’s fixture. As of now, however, it looks like Dembele might miss out, with Philippe Coutinho getting another opportunity to win his manager and Barcelona fans over.
The alternative for Valverde is to use last season’s preferred 4-4-2 formation, with the four-man midfield unit sitting narrow to create overloads in the middle of the park. But, Coutinho is likely to get the nod to line up in the Barcelona attack, with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez being his partners upfront.
In midfield, there is no looking past Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Arthur. While Busquets will reprise the holding midfield role, Rakitic will be the work-horse, with Arthur pulling the strings for the hosts in the midfield.
At the back, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba are certain starters for Barcelona, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen will line up in goal once again. The other two spots are up for grabs, with Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti battling for the other central defensive spot, while the right-back slot is a toss-up between Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo.
With Umtiti still being eased back into his role as a regular, Lenglet should partner Pique against Lyon, while Semedo is expected to get the nod over Roberto on the right flank.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Coutinho
Bruno Genesio does not have many pressing concerns hampering his preparations for the trip to Barcelona. On Wednesday, the Lyon boss might only be without two first-team players, with Amine Gouiri a certain absentee due to his ongoing recovery from a long-term knee injury.
The only concern surrounds the availability of Marcelo, who is struggling with a thigh injury. The Brazilian defender though, has travelled with the squad and could be fit enough to line up alongside Jason Denayer at the heart of the Lyon defence.
Flanking the duo will likely be Leo Dubois and Ferland Mendy, who has reportedly been on Barcelona’s radar lately, while Anthony Lopes is the first-choice goalkeeper, and will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders on Wednesday. The full-back pairing, meanwhile, will have the onus on them to provide width and create the bulk of the chances from the flanks.
In midfield, the tireless trio of Lucas Tousart, Houssem Aouar and Tanguy Ndombele are likely to partner up once again, and Les Gones’ fortunes will depend quite heavily on how the three players go about their business in the middle of the park against a Barcelona trident that likes to dominate the midfield battle.
Up ahead in attack, all the first-choice players are fit and available, with Nabil Fekir and Memphis Depay being the superstars on show for the visitors. The final spot in the side is likely to see Moussa Dembele prevail over Maxwel Cornet, owing to his recent form.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lopes; Dubois, Marcelo, Denayer, Mendy; Ndombele, Tousart, Aouar; Fekir, Dembele, Depay
- Barcelona have won all three of their home matches against Lyon in the UEFA Champions League, scoring 10 goals and conceding only two.
- In fact, Metz are the only French side to beat Barcelona at Camp Nou in European competition, in the first round of the Cup Winners’ Cup in October 1984 (4-1). In the UEFA Champions League, no French club has even kept a clean sheet at Camp Nou (9 games), with PSG being the only side to avoid defeat (1-1 in March 1995, April 2013).
- Lyon have drawn each of their last six Champions League games, equalling the record for most successive stalemates in a single campaign in the competition, held by AEK Athens (2002-03) and Glasgow Rangers (2005-06).
- Barcelona will attempt to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the 12th consecutive season – a record. The Blaugrana last failed to progress from Round of 16 stage in the 2006-07 season against Liverpool.
- Barcelona are unbeaten in 11 knockout games at Camp Nou (W9 D2), last being beaten by Bayern Munich 3-0 in the 2012-13 semi-final second leg.
Player to Watch
Things are just going from bad to worse for Coutinho, who is unable to catch a break. Ousmane Dembele’s recent injury had given the Brazilian international a golden opportunity to claw his way back into Ernesto Valverde’s long-term plans for the season. But, he is severely lacking confidence at the present moment.
However, with Dembele struggling with another injury, Coutinho has perhaps his last chance to turn his season around. And, where else but the biggest stage in club football to make a lasting impact to put an end to his misery.
But, if he fails to snap his downward spiral, Coutinho will have only given more weight to the speculation linking him with a possible move to Manchester United. Time is running out for Philippe Coutinho. It is time to finally step up to the plate.
Barcelona 2-1 Lyon
Three weeks ago, Lyon proved that they have what it takes to go toe to toe with the might of Barcelona, keeping the tie alive for the second leg at Camp Nou. But, scoring goals on a consistent basis has been the Achilles heel for Les Gones, and with Gerard Pique in imperious form for the most part lately, those struggles might just continue.
On the other end, the focus will be on keeping a lid on Lionel Messi’s output, and considering Philippe Coutinho’s poor form, negating two of the Barcelona attackers might come of use. However, the Barcelona captain seems to be coming into his own at just the most opportune moment, which makes for bad news for Lyon.
All things considered, we expect the game to be quite an even contest for the most part, but with the hosts having enough quality to usurp Bruno Genesio’s men in the end. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Barcelona, sending them into the quarter-finals by the narrowest of margins.