Champions League preview: Lyon v Bayern Munich

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Champions League preview: Lyon v Bayern Munich (agg: 0-1)

Lyon “played with the handbrake on” in the first leg of their first Champions League semi-final, according to striker Lisandro López. You’re unlikely to get out of first gear like that, but at least the French side know that now. It’s time to hit the accelerator tonight.

Arjen Robben’s solitary strike at the Allianz Arena separates the teams at the halfway point in this, a semi-final tie that few would have predicted before the tournament, but which is a deserved reward for two enterprising, attacking teams. Lyon may not have hit the heights in Munich, but it could be a different story in their eastern-France home.

Liverpool are the only one of six teams to have visited the Stade Gerland in European competition this season and not come away defeated, and while that fact will motivate Bayern Munich tonight as well as give them cause for concern, it means that the French side are confident. They’ve every right to be.

“We cannot wait,” said boss Claude Puel, “we'll have to really concentrate but I'm confident we can beat any team in Europe. We're not worrying about our opponents.”

They won’t have to worry about Franck Ribéry tonight, as his first-leg stamp on López’s ankle sees him suspended. Louis van Gaal (pictured) and Bayern have defensive problems too, as Danijel Pranjić is banned, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is ill, and Martín Demichelis, Daniel van Buyten and Diego Contento are all doubtful. There is Robben though, and where there’s Robben, there’s danger.

The Dutchman appears to have been on a one-man crusade to drag Bayern into the Champions League final this season, as the stunning, tie-winning goals against Fiorentina and Manchester United showed. Then he struck in the first leg of this tie – albeit with a bit of help from the head of Bayern forward Thomas Müller – and his importance to his team has never been more apparent. In Ribéry’s absence, he’ll be the main man tonight. He’d have been the main man anyway, but as the pressure intensifies, the spotlight is placed upon him more and more.

Lyon will be wary of him after what he did last week, but they’ve got enough quality in their ranks for Bayern to be worried too.

In López, Miralem Pjanic, Bafétimbi Gomis, Michel Bastos and César Delgado they have players capable of scoring goals, but Jérémy Toulalan will be suspended tonight following his red card in Munich, and likely central defensive partners Cris and Jean-Alain Boumsong have been struggling for fitness.

It is that defensive fragility that points to a likely away goal for the visitors, meaning that Lyon would have to score three tonight, which looks unlikely against a strong Bayern defence.

Bayern haven’t been in the final since a win on penalties against Valencia in Milan in 2001, and those in Munich are beginning to talk about omens.

The year 2010 is comprised of the same digits as 2001. This year the final is in Madrid, another major European city beginning with M. Bayern beat a Spanish side in the final back then, and could face Barcelona this time. Liverpool were the Uefa Cup winners in 2001, and could win the Europa League this season.

Superstitious nonsense? Ask a Bayern fan at full-time tonight.

Prediction: Lyon 1 Bayern Munich 2



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