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Attack the best form of defence

Published: Wednesday 25 February 2004, 16.00CET
Both Real Sociedad de Fútbol and Olympique Lyonnais will put their faith in their forward players in Spain.

Tournament statistics

Real SociedadLyon

Goals scored8
Attempts on target36
Attempts off target42
Fouls committed147
Yellow cards12
Red cards1

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Published: Wednesday 25 February 2004, 16.00CET

Attack the best form of defence

Both Real Sociedad de Fútbol and Olympique Lyonnais will put their faith in their forward players in Spain.

By Andy Hall in San Sebastian

Wednesday's UEFA Champions League knockout tie between Real Sociedad de Fútbol and Olympique Lyonnais looks set to be decided by the two teams' respective attacks.

'Strong at both ends'
Despite avoiding Europe's biggest names in the draw for the second round, the Basque side have been quick to draw attention to their opponents' qualities. "Lyon have performed well over the past few years and put in some excellent displays during the group stage so we cannot afford to consider them as lowly rivals," said Real midfield player Xabi Alonso. "They are strong at the back and in attack."

Karpin caution
Real, who have never faced French opponents on home soil, go into the game with a question mark hanging over influential midfield player Valery Karpin, who is doubtful after suffering a thigh muscle sprain in his right leg in Monday's training session. Although coach Raynald Denoueix said he was optimistic about Karpin's chances, should the right winger fail to recover Korean Republic international Chun-Soo Lee could step in.

Forward reshuffle
Denoueix could also spring a surprise in attack, bringing in Óscar De Paula for first-choice forward Darko Kovacevic, who has been struggling for form this season having scored five times in 23 league appearances to date. Despite his attacking options, however, the Real coach believes that keeping a clean sheet in the Anoeta will be key. "We must get the best result possible from this home tie and not leak any goals because they may be worth double when we travel to Lyon for the deciding game."

First-leg advantage
Xabi also insisted that the Spanish side must make home advantage count against the French champions. "It's important that during this home leg we put in a good game and get the best result we can," he said. "We will need some kind of advantage when we travel to Lyon."

'Supporters vital'
Nihat Kahveci said that support from the stands will be important to get confidence flowing through the team. "From the first minute to the last, it's vital that the fans give us as much support as possible."

Caçapa casualty
Lyon, meanwhile, are without captain and central defender Claudio Caçapa, who could miss the rest of the season after suffering cartilage damage against Le Mans UC 72 on Saturday. Swiss defender Patrick Müller should take his place, while coach Paul Le Guen is hopeful Brazilian pair Juninho Pernambucano and Giovane Elber will be fit to play.

'Battle from the start'
The visiting coach was in cautious mood, saying: "This match is only half of the tie. We cannot think that we have an advantage because we are at home in the second leg. The battle starts when we kick off tomorrow, and qualification will be decided over the two games. The return match will be important to determine the final decision, but both games will be critical for both sides."

Thoroughly prepared
"We have had Real watched lots of times," the Lyon coach continued. "We know where the danger will come from and that players like Kovacevic, Nihat, Karpin, Xabi and even [Bjørn Tore] Kvarme are all very threatening."

Clear objectives
Le Guen is clear in his side's aims. "Our first objective is not to concede a goal. Our defence has made enormous progress this year, and we're going to try to continue along the same lines. Our next objective has to be to score at least once, because we know the importance of away goals in the Champions League. If we have the chance to score, we cannot afford to waste it."

Last updated: 25/02/04 11.24CET