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Diarra back in the Lyon's den

Published: Wednesday 13 September 2006, 1.02CET
Real Madrid CF midfielder Mahamadou Diarra will try to put emotion to one side on Wednesday when he returns to Stade Gerland less than a month after leaving.
by Matthew Spiro
from Lyon

Tournament statistics

LyonReal Madrid

Goals scored12
 
18
Attempts on target50
 
58
Attempts off target53
 
48
Corners45
 
40
Offsides16
 
25
Fouls committed170
 
155
Yellow cards17
 
14
Red cards0
1
 
Published: Wednesday 13 September 2006, 1.02CET

Diarra back in the Lyon's den

Real Madrid CF midfielder Mahamadou Diarra will try to put emotion to one side on Wednesday when he returns to Stade Gerland less than a month after leaving.

Real Madrid CF midfielder Mahamadou Diarra will try to put emotion to one side tonight as he returns to Stade Gerland less than a month after leaving Olympique Lyonnais. Diarra opted to move to the Santiago Bernabéu in a €26m switch after helping Lyon win four French titles in as many years, but the Malian international finds himself back on old ground sooner than expected.

'A big role'
The 25-year-old, who was a particularly popular figure in the Lyon dressing room, insists he is entirely focused on performing well for his new club in the UEFA Champions League Group E encounter. "I'm one of several new arrivals at Madrid and I'm determined to show people why they spent so much money on me," Diarra said. "I know I've got a big role to play, both in terms of defending and attacking, but I'm confident in my ability and I'm confident I'll succeed."

Juninho duel
Diarra nevertheless admits it will feel strange lining up against opponents he knows so well. "I played with Juninho Pernambucano for four years and I'm sure our paths will cross throughout the game," he said. "It'll feel odd but I'll do everything I can for my new club. Of course that will mean trying to reduce the influence of Juninho as he's a very important player."

'It's a shame'
Juninho certainly isn't relishing his tussle with the former OFI Crete FC and BV Vitesse player. "I'm so used to seeing 'Djilla' alongside me, I'll have to be careful not to pass to him," said the Brazilian. "Seriously, it's a shame he left because the two of us were great together, but he wanted to experience something new and we have to respect his choice."

'Four great seasons'
While Diarra seems sure to receive a warm reception from Lyon's playing and coaching staffs, he is not sure what to expect from the fans. "I honestly don't know how they'll react. I spent four great seasons at Lyon and I hope people appreciate that. The fans might applaud, they might whistle, but whatever happens I'll stay focused."

Makelele comparison
Madrid supporters, meanwhile, are hoping Diarra's physical presence will help the Spanish giants return to the summit of the European game. Madrid have failed to land a trophy since the departure of Claude Makelele in 2003, and Diarra is already drawing comparisons with the Frenchman. But he said: "I don't want to compare myself with other players. It's obvious that Makelele left a big gap, but I'm a different player with different qualities."

Last updated: 13/09/06 23.02CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2006/matches/round=2357/match=1116323/prematch/focus/index.html#diarra+back+lyons

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