Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 June 2019

Lyon prepare for Barcelona clash with confidence of beating Man City in Uefa Champions League

Nabil Fekir suspended for last-16, first-leg game as Ligue 1 side to rely on defender Ferland Mendy to contain Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi's Barcelona will be formidable opponents for Lyon in the Uefa Champions Leauge. Albert Gea / Reuters
Lionel Messi's Barcelona will be formidable opponents for Lyon in the Uefa Champions Leauge. Albert Gea / Reuters

Lyon manager Bruno Genesio says his team's performances against Manchester City in the group stage prove they can compete with Barcelona in Tuesday's Uefa Champions League last 16, first leg.

The French club are in the knockout phase of the competition for the first time in seven years after emerging from their group unbeaten. They beat Pep Guardiola's City side 2-1 away before a 2-2 home draw with the Premier League leaders.

"They are two teams who have the same way of playing - they like to have possession of the ball, and they like to attack," Genesio said on Monday.

"The experience can help us - we played really well in the two games against City, and if we were capable of doing it against them, we can do it again."

An inconsistent Lyon side are often their own worst enemy, and they are a huge 16 points behind Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain in third place, having played two games more.

However, they are the only team in the league to have beaten PSG this season, winning 2-1 at home earlier this month. That was after they lost 5-0 in Paris back in October despite being the better team for long spells.

"Even in Paris we managed to raise our game against a Champions League side," Genesio pointed out. "We need to have confidence and belief as well, but I think Barcelona will raise their game compared to recent matches."

Lyon's biggest problem is that captain Nabil Fekir will miss the first leg. The World Cup winner scored the goal that gave them a 1-1 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk in their last group game to take them through, but a booking a few minutes later means he is suspended here.

"Nabil is our captain and our leader from a technical viewpoint, so obviously it is difficult," Genesio said.

Lyon manager Bruno Genesio is quietly confident in his team's chances on Tuesday night. Jeff Pachoud / AFP
Lyon manager Bruno Genesio is quietly confident in his team's chances on Tuesday night. Jeff Pachoud / AFP

"He is capable of being decisive and often performs very well in these games, but being a team is also about coping with absences and having players who can take his place. We will do what we can in the absence of Nabil."

Genesio also conceded that there are doubts surrounding the fitness of both Jason Denayer and Tanguy Ndombele.

Belgian defender Denayer suffered an adductor injury in Friday's 2-1 win over Guingamp in Ligue 1, while French international Ndombele - a vital presence in midfield - has been struggling with an ankle problem and did not play at the weekend.

"In my head my starting line-up is clear, but what the doctors tell me might make me change my mind," the manager added.

Genesio's side will rely on defender Ferland Mendy to contain Argentine forward Lionel Messi and French striker Ousmane Dembele. "We will have to reduce Messi's influence," he said.

Easier said that done, considering Messi has scored more than 100 times in the Champions League. But Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar has confidence in his teammate Mendy to control proceedings at the Groupama Stadium.

"I think that Ferland Mendy is ready to face Messi," he said. "We are confident in the qualities of our squad."

History suggests Lyon will have their work cut out on Tuesday night. Barca have previously been eliminated only twice in the last 16. They have also featured every year at this stage of the competition bar the first since its 2003/04 introduction. In contrast, their French opponents are in this round for the first time since 2011/12.

The most recent of the sides' six meetings came in the 2008/09 round of 16, when Barca won 6-3 on aggregate en route to lifting the trophy.

Updated: February 18, 2019 09:35 PM

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