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The reaction from the Olympique Lyonnais camp was one of better the devil you know after they were paired with Ligue 1 rivals FC Girondins de Bordeaux in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
The draw offered no country protection, but even so, neither club was expecting an all-French tie – only the second one in a major UEFA competition. "It is a bit of a surprise," said Lyon captain Cris, whose side upset the odds to overcome Real Madrid CF in the first knockout round.
Club president Jean-Michel Aulas identified benefits to both teams, adding: "At least we won't waste any energy in travelling. Bordeaux are like us.
They think they have a better chance to advance against us rather than Manchester United or Barcelona – we're not disappointed."
His Bordeaux counterpart, Jean-Louis Triaud, was not as enthusiastic about playing domestic opposition, but did highlight one big bonus. "The good point is obviously that there will be a French team in UEFA Champions League semi-finals," Triaud said, with either Lyon and Bordeaux sure of supplying the last four with a French club for the first time since AS Monaco FC in 2003/04. "Lyon have more experience, but we have the advantage of staging the second leg."
Lyon host the opener on 30 March before visiting the Stade Chaban-Delmas eight days later. While Aulas said "statistics show many sides progress playing away last" his head coach, Claude Puel, was more circumspect in his appraisal. "To play the French champions and Ligue 1 leaders with the decider away – it's tricky," he said.
With a league meeting following soon after the tie, the two sides will meet three times in the space of 20 days. "We'll try to catch them in the league and advance to semi-finals," added Cris. "Meeting Bordeaux in the Champions League will be totally different and they've shone in Europe this season, but we showed against Real Madrid that we have it in us. We'll try to make the most of our Champions League experience."
In their league meeting earlier this season, Maroune Chamakh scored a late goal to secure Bordeaux victory – just as he did in midweek against Olympiacos FC – and in 45 fixtures between the sides at Stade de Gerland since their first encounter in 1952, Lyon have come out on top 21 times to the visitors' 12. Fives seasons ago Cris scored twice as Lyon inflicted their biggest win on Bordeaux, but he is expecting a very different encounter this time round. "
There will be no favourite for this game, but with a French side guaranteed in the last four, it shows the strength of Ligue 1."
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