Olympique Lyonnais have hardly had the best build-up to their key UEFA Champions League meeting with AFC Ajax on Tuesday. Rémi Garde's side suffered a first home Ligue 1 defeat in 14 months in succumbing 2-1 to Stade Rennais FC on Friday – a third successive loss in all competitions – but the club's longest-serving player, Cris, says his team-mates cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves as they prepare to host the Dutch champions.
The Brazilian defender said: "It's always a pity to lose a game, as we did on Friday but now we have to forget it and only have in our minds that a defeat against Ajax would cost us qualification. We absolutely need to win, we have the opportunity to show that we can go through."
Lyon go into the game with the risk of missing out on the competition's knockout phase for the first time since the 2002/03 season. They sit third in Group D, trailing Ajax by three points after back-to-back defeats by leaders Real Madrid CF. "We will do our best to win the last two games and get this second place," added Cris, whose side face GNK Dinamo Zagreb in their final group fixture. "After the draw, a lot of people said that Lyon and Ajax would fight it out for second place and that's the case now."
It is not just in Europe where Lyon, fifth in Ligue 1, have a fight on their hands. It is now a decade since the season of their first domestic championship, the first of an incredible sequence of seven in a row. After three years without a trophy, though, and with a formidable new challenger on their domestic stage in the Qatari-backed Paris Saint-Germain FC, the club's president, Jean-Michel Aulas, believes it may take a planned new 50,000-capacity stadium to help them "compete on an equal footing" again.
For now, though, coach Garde, a former Lyon player, is hoping to revive the spirit of old and that spirit is certainly strong in Cris, the man they call Le Policier (The Policeman). The 34-year-old, now in his eighth season at the Stade Gerland, refuses to "even think about the Europa League" and is determined Lyon do not let their Ligue 1 downturn affect morale. "I believe in this team. This game will be another story, in a different competition. We have the chance to go through. Everything is possible."
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