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Le Guen looking to last four

Published: Tuesday 5 April 2005, 7.41CET
Paul Le Guen says Olympique Lyonnais benefited from last season's experience as they meet PSV Eindhoven.

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Published: Tuesday 5 April 2005, 7.41CET

Le Guen looking to last four

Paul Le Guen says Olympique Lyonnais benefited from last season's experience as they meet PSV Eindhoven.

By Matthew Spiro in Lyon

Olympique Lyonnais coach Paul Le Guen believes his current team is better equipped to reach the UEFA Champions League semi-finals than the side that lost to FC Porto last season.

Invaluable experience
The French champions made the quarter-finals for the first time 12 months ago, before bowing out to the eventual winners. Le Guen, however, is confident of avoiding a similar scenario against PSV Eindhoven, saying: "We've benefited from last season's experience and we've learned lessons from the Porto games."

Quality increased
The former French international said the main lesson he learned was that Lyon needed more quality in key positions, continuing: "We weren't far off Porto's level but we were lacking in certain areas. We put that right last summer by bringing in two or three players who have allowed us to raise our game a notch. This season our campaign has been more convincing."

Improvement at both ends
The arrival of Cris and Eric Abidal has strengthened the defence considerably, while Sylvain Wiltord's experience and quality have helped Lyon score 27 goals in eight Champions League matches – nine more than any other team. "Sylvain has been important for us and he is also an important player for France once again," Le Guen added. "He fills his role perfectly and is one of the players who has given us this extra dimension."

Welcome returns
Wiltord will return to the side after being rested for Saturday's 1-0 win against RC Lens which enabled Lyon to extend their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to 13 points. Le Guen has the luxury of choosing his strongest team after Sidney Govou shook off the ankle injury he picked up playing for France last week and captain Claudio Caçapa made his return from a knee problem at the weekend.

Brazilian influence
Caçapa is looking forward to pitting himself against two fellow Brazilians, goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes and defender Alex, but the centre-half expects a difficult game. "PSV are a very strong team," he said. "I know Gomes well because I played against him in Brazil. He's outstanding, while Alex is also very good."

Set-piece threat
The 28-year-old is particularly wary of PSV's strength at set-pieces, having seen them score twice from corners against AS Monaco FC in the last round. "We've been working on defending set-pieces," he said. "The key is to be as physical as them and to make sure we take a man each."

'Top team'
PSV coach Guus Hiddink, meanwhile, has warned the Eredivisie leaders to expect a much tougher test than against Monaco, saying: "Lyon have been the top team in France for some time. They play better collectively than Monaco and are more disciplined tactically. We'll have to be two steps ahead at all times."

'Big battle'
Hiddink also has a full squad available, and will be relying on Phillip Cocu, Mark van Bommel and Johann Vogel to control midfield. "This is where the game could be won and lost," he said. "Lyon have young but experienced players in there. Juninho [Pernambucano] has a wealth of experience, Michael Essien is a class player and Mahamadou Diarra gets through a lot of work. It will be a big battle."

Lone striker
The former Netherlands coach, who is likely to play Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink as a lone striker, insisted his side would not be intent on merely defending. "The statistics show that your chances increase if you score away," he said. "We'll not just try to kill the game. That wouldn't be in the spirit of Dutch football or of PSV."

Last updated: 05/04/05 23.42CET