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Messi aiming to thrill French audience

Published: Tuesday 24 February 2009, 18.52CET
Lionel Messi will be hoping that his excellent run of form on French soil continues at Stade de Gerland where FC Barcelona take on Olympique Lyonnais for place in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League.
by Matthew Spiro
from Lyon
Messi aiming to thrill French audience
Lionel Messi caught the eye on his last visit to France ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

LyonBarcelona

Goals scored17
 
32
Attempts on target53
 
91
Attempts off target50
 
94
Corners39
 
86
Offsides25
 
24
Fouls committed154
 
145
Yellow cards22
 
22
Red cards1
 
1
 
Published: Tuesday 24 February 2009, 18.52CET

Messi aiming to thrill French audience

Lionel Messi will be hoping that his excellent run of form on French soil continues at Stade de Gerland where FC Barcelona take on Olympique Lyonnais for place in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League.

Lionel Messi will be hoping his excellent run of form on French soil continues at Stade de Gerland as FC Barcelona take on Olympique Lyonnais for place in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League.

Dazzling display
The last time the 21-year-old made the trip across the Pyrenees he dazzled and enchanted the French fans to such an extent they began cheering his every touch. Most had attended the game between France and Argentina with the intention of supporting Les Bleus, yet by the time Messi capped another stunning display with his side's second goal in a 2-0 triumph they were content simply to enjoy the show. "I don't know if I can play that well again [against Lyon]," Messi shrugged when asked about the Stade Vélodrome friendly on 11 February. "That was an international, this is a Champions League match. It's totally different, but I'll try my best."

Messi goals
Lyon should take heed, although they hardly need reminding of Messi's talents. In last season's group stage, he scored against them both in the 3-0 win at the Camp Nou and in the 2-2 draw in the Rhone Valley. Barça had already got the better of OL in the clubs' two previous confrontations in 2001/02 and will start as clear favourites again. Messi, however, has learned to take nothing for granted. "We have a good record against Lyon but I don't pay much attention to statistics," the forward explained. "Don't forget [RCD] Espanyol hadn't beaten us for a long time either, and look what happened."

'Big advantage'
Espanyol's shock win away to the Spanish Liga leaders on Saturday allowed Real Madrid CF to close to within seven points, prompting suggestions that the title race is back on. Another poor result against Lyon would add credence to claims that Josep Guardiola's team are in difficulty, although Messi dismissed talk of a slump. "I'm not sure our form has really dipped," he said. "We're still top and seven points is a big advantage. We've already put the Espanyol game out of our minds. There's a really big game coming up against Lyon and we need to be totally focused."

Injury blow
The UEFA Champions League tends to bring out the best in Messi. He is the joint-top scorer in this year's competition with five goals and remains determined to inspire Barcelona to their second crown in four seasons. In 2006, the diminutive schemer missed the chance to showcase his skills in a French stadium when injury ruled him out of the final. On Tuesday, he will have another opportunity. "This competition motivates me a lot," he said. "I was very disappointed to miss out on the final in Paris. But hopefully we can do well again this year."

Last updated: 24/02/09 15.55CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2009/matches/round=15277/match=302789/prematch/focus/index.html#messi+aiming+thrill+french+audience

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