Lyon v Juventus: Visitors simply too strong for Ligue 1 underdogs
The Serie A champions should live up to their billing as clear favourites at the Groupama Stadium on Wednesday night, writes James Eastham...
Lyon vs Juventus Wednesday 26 February, 20:00 GMT Live on BT Sport 3
Visitors have better team news
For Juventus,Sami Khedira and Douglas Costa are absent through injury. Recovering from a back injury, Gonzalo Higuain trained on Monday morning and should be available for selection. Miralem Pjanic is also a contender to start after a muscle pull.
For Lyon, Left-back Youssouf Kone, midfielder Jeff Reine-Adelaide and striker Memphis Depay are long-term injury absentees. In all other positions the home side are at full strength.
It's little to surprise to find Juventus are the clear 2.00 favourites to win in 90 minutes on Wednesday night even though they're the away side. The Serie A champions have considerably more pedigree than Lyon, which is why the Ligue 1 hosts are 4.70, with The Draw 3.70.
A certain lack of class and character has plagued French clubs' participation in European competition this season. Strasbourg were knocked out of the Europa League during the qualifying rounds, Rennes and St Etienne exited the competition at the end of the group phase, Lille went the same way at the end of the Champions League group phase and PSG lost 2-1 at Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash last weekend.
There are few reasons to suspect Lyon will fare any better. Rudi Garcia (pictured above) has yet to get to grips with the team since taking over last October: the hosts sit seventh in the Ligue 1 standings and have struggled to do well against better teams all season.
They're W7-D3-L2 in all competitions since the start of 2020 but finished three points behind Red Bull Leipzig in the autumnal Champions League group phase, sneaking into the knockout phase by finishing just one point ahead of Benfica and Zenit St Petersburg.
Juventus topped Champions League Group D ahead of Atletico Madrid thanks to an impressive W5-D1-L0 record and go into this game in better form: they're W8-D1-L2 in all competitions since the start of the year. The only sliver of hope for Lyon is that Juventus' away form is not perfect: the Bianconeri are W1-D1-L2 from their last four Serie A fixtures on the road, with defeats at Verona (1-2) and Napoli (1-2).
Depay absence a crucial factor
Latest reports from the hosts' camp suggest Lyon may use a 3-4-3 formation in a bid to suppress Juventus' attacking instincts. The Ligue 1 outfit road-tested the tactics in their 2-0 win at Metz on Friday night and manager Rudi Garcia seems to believe this shape will give Lyon the best chance of being competitive on the night.
Individually and collectively, however, there's an obvious difference in quality between the sides. How many of the Lyon starting line-up would be contenders to get into Juventus' side? Hardly any, is the answer, even though the likes of France U21 midfielder Houssem Aouar and ex-Celtic striker Moussa Dembele (20 goals in all competitions this season) have obvious potential.
Lyon's outstanding player during the group phase was Depay: the Netherlands international scored five of Lyon's nine goals. Without him, it's hard to see how Lyon can compete with Juventus, either on the night or across the two legs. We predict a happy trip across the Alps for Juventus, the smart selection to secure a first-leg lead.