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Lyon to test United's reserves

Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004, 11.52CET
Manchester United FC visit Olympique Lyonnais, who are stronger than last season, says coach Paul Le Guen.

Tournament statistics

LyonMan. United

Goals scored29
Attempts on target78
Attempts off target65
Fouls committed146
Yellow cards10
Red cards0

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Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004, 11.52CET

Lyon to test United's reserves

Manchester United FC visit Olympique Lyonnais, who are stronger than last season, says coach Paul Le Guen.

By Matthew Spiro in Lyon

Olympique Lyonnais manager Paul Le Guen believes his side are capable of improving on their showing in last season's UEFA Champions League, as they open their campaign against Manchester United FC at the Stade Gerland.

'Quality additions'
The French champions, who are in the group stage for the fifth consecutive season, enjoyed their best performance last year, reaching the last eight before losing to FC Porto. Le Guen has strengthened his squad significantly since then and is confident of going even further this season. "We've added quality players in important positions and I believe we're a stronger side," he said. "The new recruits are settling quickly and we can certainly have ambitions of getting past the group phase."

Encouraging debuts
Le Guen has reinforced his strike force by signing Pierre-Alain Frau from FC Sochaux-Montbéliard and, more recently, Sylvain Wiltord and the Brazilian Honorato da Silva 'Nilmar'. Wiltord and Nilmar both made encouraging debuts against Stade Rennais FC at the weekend, with the latter coming on to score two goals both goal in a 2-1 victory. "Nilmar had a great start," said Le Guen. "The language barrier is still a problem for him but he's getting better every day. I was also pleased with Wiltord's contribution."

Juninho returns
With Giovane Elber a long-term absentee, Le Guen is likely to pair Wiltord with Frau in attack, while Nilmar should stay on the bench. Florent Malouda and Sidney Govou will occupy the flanks, with Juninho Pernambucano, rested against Rennes, returning alongside Michael Essien in midfield.

Flourishing partnership
Meanwhile, Lyon's new captain Claudio Caçapa is hoping to continue his flourishing defensive partnership with compatriot Cris, the Brazil international signed to replace Edmílson. Cris has a thigh problem but should play, and Caçapa said: "He has been a great signing. He's such a competitor and just loves getting stuck in."

Injury concerns
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, has a string of injury concerns, not least in attack where Louis Saha, Wayne Rooney and Ole Gunnar Solskjær are all out. Ruud van Nistelrooij returned from injury at the weekend and looks set to start again alongside Alan Smith after Ferguson made his attacking intentions clear. "Scoring goals away from home in Europe is important because it sends a message to your opponent," he explained. "We'll go out and attack because that's the way we play."

Late fitness test
The English FA Cup winners also have problems at the back, where Gary Neville has a fractured kneecap and Rio Ferdinand is suspended. But Ferguson, who will give John O'Shea a late fitness test, said: "I'm not here to talk about that. We've come here with 20 fit players, most of whom are internationals. This is a big European game, the sort my players enjoy and usually excel in. I hope that will be the case again."

'Difficult match'
Wes Brown, Gabriel Heinze and Phil Neville are available after making their first United appearances of the season on Saturday, while Mikaël Silvestre is a certain starter on his return to France. "I know Lyon well and they'll give us a difficult match," Silvestre said. "Having so many players out makes it hard for us." United do still have Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo available in midfield, however, and Lyon manager Le Guen said: "I don't agree with people who say it's a good time to play Manchester United. They're getting big players back at an important time and they're still a good side. We will have to be up for it from the very first kick."

Last updated: 15/09/04 17.53CET