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Olympique Lyonnais youngster Maxime Gonalons cannot wait to take on "one of the best sides in Europe" in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round, and revealed he would particularly relish another trip to England having already starred at Anfield this season.
Claude Puel's team face a daunting draw on 18 December after missing out on top spot in Group E to ACF Fiorentina, despite Wednesday's emphatic 4-0 win against Debreceni VSC. A Spanish or English giant now awaits Les Gones in the next round, yet Gonalons is not unduly worried. "Whoever we get, it will be very, very tough," said the 20-year-old midfielder, who scored his side's vital equaliser on his competition debut at Liverpool FC in November. "There are only great sides available to us, but we will give a good account of ourselves. Why not return to England? That would be nice."
Gonalons gave Puel food for thought in terms of midfield options with another assured display against the Hungarian titleholders. Replacing the injured Jérémy Toulalan, the youth-team graduate provided a solid platform alongside Jean II Makoun, which allowed the hosts' attacking players to flourish. Bafétimbi Gomis, Michel Bastos and Miralem Pjanić all scored before left-back Aly Cissokho added gloss to the victory. "We're happy with the result but also the performance," added Gonalons. "We wanted to make up for the defeat at Lille [on Sunday] and we did that, playing with more fluency and creating a lot. It's good, because the poor run of form we've been on was starting to play on our minds."
The seven-time French champions have failed to win in their last six Ligue 1 outings and tackle leaders FC Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday. Pjanić, who excelled after replacing the injured Sidney Govou on 29 minutes, believes the players can take heart from the clinical manner in which they dismissed Debrecen. "We're really pleased," the Bosnian international said. "There were some good passages of play, which is encouraging for the next few games. This performance was a relief. We played with a lot of freedom and started to feel confident in ourselves again."
While Lyon eased into the knockout stage for the seventh year running, András Herczeg's men were left to reflect on a debut campaign that finished without a single point. For their French striker Adamo Coulibaly, however, the experience was wholly positive. "Playing in this competition has been great for me," said the Paris-born player. "I scored three goals and learned a lot. We've tried to take pleasure from the games and we enjoyed ourselves in the first half against Lyon, posing them quite a few problems. Overall we probably lacked a bit of experience, but we hope to return next season."
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