Olympique Lyonnais coach Gérard Houllier is calling on his team to seize control of their UEFA Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven, as the French champions aim to book their place in the quarter-finals for the third season running.
Lyon's slender victory at the Philips Stadion a fortnight ago, secured courtesy of yet another Juninho Pernambucano free-kick, has put them in a strong position, particularly in light of their outstanding record at the Stade Gerland. The Ligue 1 leaders have not tasted a home defeat in the UEFA Champions League since a 2-0 reverse against AFC Ajax in 2002, winning nine and drawing four games since.
'Control the game'
But PSV have shown impressive powers of recovery in recent times, and Houllier is determined to leave nothing to chance. "We're very proud of our victory in the first leg but there's still plenty of work to do," he said. "I'm not going to reveal how we will approach the game, but I can say that the notion of control will be important. I don't just want us to manage the game, I want us to control it."
Keeping the 2004/05 semi-finalists at bay will not be a straightforward task. Guus Hiddink's side came from behind in both legs of last season's epic quarter-final with Lyon before advancing on penalties, and they twice struck the frame of Grégory Coupet's goal in Eindhoven last month.
Houllier hopes the memory of last year's exit will provide extra motivation. "Everyone was frustrated by what happened," said the former Liverpool FC boss. "My players have the same kind of determination to set the record straight that [FC] Barcelona have against Chelsea [FC]. They still remember how sad they felt and they're desperate to do better."
Lyon will once again line up with a patched-up defence, as Claudio Caçapa, Jérémy Berthod, Sylvain Monsoreau and Anthony Réveillère are all missing. Despite the recent spate of injuries, Lyon's march towards a fifth successive title continued on Saturday with a 3-1 win at AC Ajaccio, dispelling talk of a crisis following the shock 4-1 defeat by Stade Rennais FC. "A lot was made of the Rennes result but I'm not going to dwell on it," Houllier said. "The most important thing was to react positively."
François Clerc will continue at right-back, with Cris, available again after breaking his nose, partnering Patrick Müller in central defence. Sylvain Wiltord, meanwhile, should replace the suspended Sidney Govou, and John Carew is fit again and could be preferred to Fred in attack.
PSV, 4-1 victors against SC Heerenveen on Saturday, also have injury concerns in defence. André Ooijer is out with a broken foot, and Michael Lamey (calf) and Michael Reiziger (hand) are both doubts. Hiddink hinted that he would take a gamble on Reiziger's fitness, while Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink may also start despite a knee problem. "I may pick those two players from the start and see how they cope, or alternatively, I could leave them on the bench to give me some useful options during the game," said Hiddink.
The PSV coach insisted all his players would need to be at their best if they are overcome a Lyon team he believes have improved since last term. "We got a 1-1 draw here last time and that was a fantastic result. This time we need to win," Hiddink said. "Given that Lyon are even stronger now, and PSV have sold several players, it will be extremely difficult. But I know my players and they never give up. If everybody is 100 per cent, and if we impose ourselves from the start, anything is possible."
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