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Yoann Gourcuff has warned Real Madrid CF that Olympique Lyonnais will "be relaxed and push forward" when the two sides renew acquaintances in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday.
The clubs met at the same stage last season and it was Lyon who emerged victorious, setting up a meeting with Gourcuff's FC Girondins de Bordeaux on their way to a last-four exit. Now, with the France midfielder in their ranks following his €22m summer transfer, Les Gones will be seeking a fourth consecutive home success against Madrid that would leave them well placed for a return to the quarter-finals.
Despite the confidence accrued thanks to those previous successes, Gourcuff nonetheless insisted that the hosts were expecting the staunchest of tests at the Stade de Gerland. "
You could say that last season Real Madrid underestimated Lyon and that this year that won't be the case; they'll want revenge for the last tie," he said. "I don't really know which way it will go, but we know we'll be facing a great team."
The 24-year-old also expects the Merengues to be a more tenacious proposition under José Mourinho, winner of the competition at the FC Internazionale Milano helm last season. "They're a great club with a great coach," he explained. "They're the favourites, but in football – and this is what makes football so fantastic, especially modern football – there's less and less logic. Everyone can beat everyone and I hope we'll grab the opportunity to come through this round.
"We will have to be smart and relaxed, otherwise we'll suffer a lot and be forced back by Real's pressure. We'll need to play our game, move a lot, be relaxed and push forward – but not blindly. We'll have to be well balanced at the back, because we know Real have great attacking qualities."
With Lyon having recovered from a poor start in Ligue 1 to haul themselves into the pack chasing LOSC Lille Métropole, Gourcuff feels the Group B runners-up will go into the tie in rude health. "We're in a positive moment right now," said the former AC Milan schemer. "Recently, we've been more confident, more calm and we're approaching games in a better way. I think the team is very strong.
If we manage to play as a team, I think we can disturb their game and also get at them or threaten from set pieces. Even individually, we have some players who can do great things."
Many would cite Lyon's No29 as one such player. The son of FC Lorient coach Christian Gourcuff has adapted well to life at his new club, despite the Achilles heel injury that kept him sidelined for seven weeks until his return against his father's team on 15 January.
"So far, my team-mates have helped me settle in really well here at Lyon," he said. "On the football side, we're still trying to find ourselves. There are many individual players and the hardest thing is to form an understanding. For the moment, we still have to improve as a team, but I hope we'll have a great end to the season."
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