The news that FC Slovan Liberec had to switch their UEFA Cup fourth-round tie against Olympique Lyonnais away from the U Nisy stadium because of a waterlogged pitch will inevitably give the French club a lift in what was already a finely balanced tie after the 1-1 draw in Lyon.
Slovan will still be playing before a partisan crowd at the Letná stadium, the home of rivals AC Sparta Praha, and furthermore they will be bolstered by the knowledge that they have already won on the ground this season.
Much has been made of Sidney Govou’s last-minute equaliser for Lyon last week, a strike which must have been painful for the Czech Republic side after such an impressive dislplay, but Lyon still need to score in Prague if they are to go through and a fascinating tie is in prospect.
Slovan have proved often enough this season that they are not a team to be taken lightly. Whatever happens today they have had a marvellous run in this competition, in which they have disposed of SK Slovan Bratislava, RC Celta de Vigo and RCD Mallorca, who like Lyon, were competing in the UEFA Champions League this season. Against Celta, they came from 3-1 down in the first leg to win 4-3 on aggregate.
Lyon have a number of injury doubts for the game. Florent Laville had to be substituted after 25 minutes in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat by Sochaux with a hamstring injury. Also striker Pegguy Luyindula and Brazilian midfield player Juninho Pernambucano, who made such a big impression in the first leg, both came back suffering from gastroenteritis. Christophe Delmotte who will have a fitness test before the afternoon kick-off after he too picked up a knock against Sochaux.
"Considering what we showed in Lyon in the first-leg match, I think we can win in Liberec," said Govou. "We certainly have the means to do so. The outcome will depend on the mental strength of the teams." The Lyon team have watched a video of the first leg in which coach Jacques Santini has highlighted a series of defensive errors which led up to the early Slovan goal by man of the match Jirí Štajner. The Lyon players have been warned.
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