APOEL Nicosia caused a major
shock by reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and
Olympique Lyon, chastened by a domestic defeat, will take
nothing for granted when they host the Cypriots in Tuesday's
Lyon's 2-1 loss at home to lowly Caen served as a stern
reminder that the club's policy of blooding young players needed
some polishing three days before they meet the first Cypriot
team to make the knockout stages.
With a new coach this season and virtually no money to
recruit, Lyon have reached the League Cup final, are still in a
position to win the French Cup and look capable of qualifying
for next season's Champions League through Ligue 1.
However, Saturday's performance shocked many at the club.
"It is a disappointment. We're coming down to earth with a
bump," president Jean-Michel Aulas told the Lyon website.
"We have to look into what went wrong and use this for the
Champions League on Tuesday. We have to question ourselves on
Coach Remi Garde, who took over from Claude Puel on a
one-year contract, has been blending in young players but they
have been found wanting at times this term.
Maxime Gonalons, 22, lacked steel in the midfield while
Clement Grenier, 21, failed to add stamina when needed against
Caen. Only substitute striker Alexandre Lacazette, 20, managed
to offer a threat, winning a late penalty.
French striker Bafetimbi Gomis promised they would do better
on Tuesday, saying: "It will be another story."
Lyon, who reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2010,
are also likely to face defensive troubles against APOEL.
Croatia centre-back Dejan Lovren looks set to miss the game
through injury, possibly forcing Garde to field 18-year-old
Samuel Umtiti although Cris could return on Tuesday.
Playmaker Yoann Gourcuff is still out of form.
While Lyon needed a 7-1 thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb to seal
unlikely qualification for the last 16 for a ninth straight
season, APOEL topped their group having beaten heavyweights
Porto and Zenit St Petersburg.
APOEL's defensive strength could prompt another
backs-to-the-wall performance at the Stade Gerland after Ivan
Jovanovic's side managed three away draws in the group stage.
They will be attempting to beat Lyon at home at this stage
for the first time since AS Roma recorded a 2-0 win in 2007 but
will be aided by new Portuguese utility man Helder Sousa.
APOEL's band of Cypriots, Greeks, Brazilians, Portuguese,
Macedonians, Bosnians, Argentines, Tunisians and Spanish have
shown that a strong team bond can trump individual brilliance.
"I am the happiest man in the world right now," Jovanovic
said in November. "We want to celebrate more great nights along
with, not just our own fans, but all Cypriot fans back home."
Champions APOEL, in the running for the Cypriot title again,
played their last league game on Friday and beat Ethnikos Achnas
2-1 with Constantinos Charalambides scoring both goals.
Olympique Lyon: 1-Hugo Lloris; 13-Anthony Reveillere,
4-Bakary Kone, 3-Cris, 20-Aly Cissokho; 19-Jimmy Briand,
21-Maxime Gonalons, 10-Ederson, 11-Michel Bastos; 18-Batefimbi
Gomis, 9-Lisandro Lopez.
APOEL Nicosia: 22-Dionisios Chiotis; 7-Savvas Poursaetides,
4-Kaka, 26-Nuno Morais, 31-Helder Sousa; 29-Nektarios
Alexandrou, 23-Helio Pinto, 81-Marcinho; 10-Constantinos
Charalambides; 11-Ivan Trickovski, 8-Ailton.
Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (Italy).
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