Most people have Barcelona penciled in for the Finals, and it’s hard to argue with the stats. They’ve gone unbeaten in La Liga since the very first weekend of the season, when they lost to Numancia. They’ve beaten the three other Spanish teams in the Round of 16, including a 6-1 thrashing of Atletico Madrid. They’ve scored four or more goals in a Liga match seven different times. They have a +52 goal difference as of the 23rd week of the season, and their three top scorers, Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi, and Thierry Henry, have combined for 49 goals, which is more than any other TEAM has scored in La Liga this season.
They’ve been dominant in the Champions League, defeating Sporting Lisbon (the second place team in their group) by a combined score of 8-3. They were shockingly held to a 1-1 draw against Basel, and dropped a meaningless match against Shakhtar Donetsk after they had already qualified for the Round of 16. Otherwise, there’s been little to suggest that they won’t be in top form by the time the Round of 16 begins.
So why should Lyon bother showing up when everyone and their mother seems to have them counted out? For one thing, Lyon are riding a six-match unbeaten streak in the France, and accustomed to the glare of the European spotlight. They were on their way to winning, at home, against Manchester United in the Round of 16 last season until Carlos Tevez scored the important away-goal. Things could have gone very differently for them if Tevez hadn’t nailed that late equalizer.
Additionally, many of their best players should be primed and ready to go for this match. Karim Benzema, who has been linked with more than one club, including Barcelona, will be looking to add to his resume (and possibly impress his future employers). French international Jeremy Toulalan and Swedish international Kim Kallstrom have been in fine form in the midfield, while Cesar Delgado seems to be winning over Lyon fans as the answer up front with Benzema. And, of course, we know about Juninho’s free kicks, and if he gets a hold of one, then not even Dr. Octopus can stop him from scoring. If they can get a good result at home and then pick off a goal at the Nou Camp, then who knows?
In any event, Barcelona would be wise not to sleep on Lyon. If they get caught looking ahead to the next round, then they could very well end up watching the rest of the tournament on television.
Back to all 16 teams in the 08-09 Champions League Second Round Preview.