UCL Preview: Rising vs Reigning stars in Lyon-Barca clash
This one probably has an obvious outcome on paper but no so much in reality. One of the champions league favorites, Barcelona will have to be on top of their game if they are to progress past a young and stubborn Olympique Lyonnais. The Blaugrana captain, Lionel Messi, promised the Catalan fans that the UCL trophy would be a top priority this campaign and that they would give in their absolute best to bring it home. In all honesty, you have to believe they could.
Barca’s quality in all the key areas is indisputable. All of whom any Barca fans would have wanted to be fit for the visit to France, are. Long-term absentee and world cup winner, Samuel Umtiti is available for selection for the centre-back positions and so is 21-year-old Ousmane Dembele who will be contending for a starting forward position with the likes of Coutinho and Ghanaian Kevin Prince Boateng.Yes, veteran champions league winners in Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and superhuman, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen are all available to Ernesto Valverde. After steam rolling opponents such as Inter Milan, Tottenham and PSV in the group stage where they finished unbeaten, you must believe the Spanish champions mean business. They are not the only ones to do so though, coincidentally, Lyon did.
The French Ligue 1 side won only one of their six UCL group stage matches but could never be humbled to a defeat even when faced with the challenge of the likes of Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk and Hoffenheim. In fact, they inflicted City’s first defeat of the season at the Etihad and settled for a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture with Ivory Coast’s Maxwell Cornet, 22, netting in both fixtures. Bruno Genesio’s men love a big game, also having recently subject PSG to their first Ligue 1 defeat of the season and you must believe they are fit to stand toe-toe against anyone. Barca do have the experience and quality players but Lyon currently boasts of some of the most sought after talents in European football right now. They include 23-year-old Burkinabe international in Bertrand Traore, the “new Pogba” Tanguy Ndombele (22), “reincarnation of Iniesta” Houssem Aouar (20), Barcelona’s target to replace Jordi Alba in Ferland Mendy (23), forward Moussa Dembele (22) and the likes of Memphis Depay.
It’s a battle between the experienced who must win versus the young bright kids with absolutely nothing to lose but willing to give their all.
My prediction: Barcelona will do just enough to go through to the next round even though it will be a fierce contest.