By Kevin Ashby
Goalkeeper Grégory Coupet has warned his Olympique Lyonnais team-mates that they cannot underestimate the Nils Arne Eggen factor when the French side aim to secure progress from UEFA Champions League Group D away to Rosenborg BK.
The section is the most competitive of the eight first-stage groups, with the three protagonists separated by a solitary point. Two of those clubs - AFC Ajax and Internazionale FC - meet at the Amsterdam ArenA knowing that defeat and a win for Lyon would see the losers fall to third spot and into the UEFA Cup.
Lyon will also advance if they draw and Inter lose but playing for a point could amount to trying Russian roulette in what promises to be an occasion to remember at the Lerkendal stadium. The ground has long been sold out as the home faithful pay homage to departing coach Eggen after more than a quarter of a century as the club's figurehead.
Having steered the Trondheim club to an eleventh consecutive Norwegian title last month, Eggen will retire once the club's European involvement ends with the referee's final whistle. Local interest in the match is phenomenal, perhaps intensified by the 61-year-old's desire to field an attacking formation and "finish in style".
Coupet, the Lyon keeper, will bear the brunt of Rosenborg's offensive thrusts. He said: "They will play for their coach. It will be like a jubilee and in those euphoric conditions anything can happen." His coach, Paul Le Guen, was not so cautious, saying: "We know what to expect in Trondheim."
Midfield player Bent Skammelsrud, 36, will also bid farewell after not being offered a new contract in the wake of Eggen's retirement. Another desiring an ending to remember, the veteran will line up in a side without injury concerns, despite the ill-tempered nature of an indoor weekend friendly against Viking FK. Harald Brattbakk and Azar Karadas each scored twice in a 5-3 win.
San Siro spirit
Lyon also won their last domestic fixture, Claudio Caçapa scoring the winning goal after Eric Carrière's early opener had been cancelled out by Le Havre AC's Anthony Le Tallec. A surprise 2-0 home loss by Ajax on Matchday Five dented hopes of a top-two finish and Carrière has called on Les Gônes to reproduce the spirit of the San Siro, where they defeated Inter 2-1.
'Raising the profile'
"It's true, very few teams have won at Rosenborg," said French international Carrière. "But then there are not many teams who have won in Milan. Getting through this would be a good way of raising the profile of the club."
Raising Rosenborg's status is something Eggen has done with aplomb; he is to be elected as an Honorary Citizen of Trondheim in recognition for his years of work. Exacting revenge for a 5-0 Matchday Two humbling in Lyon would provide a fitting yet bittersweet finale to the coaching career of one European football's great servants.
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