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FC Slovan Liberec have been the surprise package so far in the UEFA Cup with victories over both RCD Mallorca and RC Celta de Vigo. They would probably have preferred to tackle a third Spanish side in the fourth round but nevertheless will not lack confidence as they take on Olympique Lyonnais in the Gerland stadium.
Ladislav Škorpil’s well-organised side are in good form currently, having defeated AC Sparta Praha 1-0 last weekend to put themselves only four points behind the Czech champions in the 1. Liga. It was the first time since 1996 that any league team had done the double over Sparta.
Lyon coach Jacques Santini has warned his team to be wary of the threat posed by Slovan, saying: "They are organised and hard-working like a lot of teams from eastern Europe. They are tall and fast and it will be a tough challenge." Captain Sonny Anderson was similarly cautious. "They’re a very good team," he said. "Do not forget they defeated Mallorca and Vigo. It's not Bayern or Barça but they play very, very good football."
Santini confirmed that Eric Carrière will be in his squad even though the former FC Nantes Atlantique player has a foot injury. Lyon are in good form themselves having last week gained an impressive 3-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain FC in the Stade Municipal where they have remained unbeaten all season. The win closes the gap on leaders RC Lens to two points. Anderson and young striker Sidney Govou are both at the top of their game and that augurs well for Santini's team.
Slovan's defeat of Sparta was their ninth successive victory and their impressive performances have persuaded new Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner to include three new faces from the team in his first squad. Midfielder Václav Koloušek, forward Jiří Štajner and goalkeeper Antonín Kinský were all called up for a four-country tournament in Cyprus earlier this month.
Škorpil’s only injury worry for the game in France concerns Ghana striker Gyan Baffour who returned from African Cup of Nations duty carrying a knock.
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