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Considering Olympique Lyonnais have won all 22 of their competitive games this season, including an 11-1 aggregate defeat of FC Rossiyanka in the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16, it is hardly surprising that it is the weather rather than the opposition that seems to worry Camille Abily on their return to Russia.
Having disposed of Russian champions Rossiyanka before Christmas, last season's runners-up Lyon were paired with Zvezda-2005 in the quarter-finals, travelling to Perm for the first leg next Thursday. France midfielder Abily, who rejoined Lyon in the autumn after a spell in the United States, is aware that a trip to Russia will not be simple.
"We went to Russia in the previous round," the 23-year-old told UEFA.com. "It wasn't an easy game, even though the results were 6-1 and 5-0. It looks easy, but they were a good team. We were better organised than them. I expect a difficult game, difficult conditions, as we are not used to playing in temperatures below zero. I think the forecast says -15C. We are not used to that. It will be difficult, but I have faith in the team. Our objective is to win the Champions League, so we will have to get a good result at Zvezda."
Abily helped Lyon to the former UEFA Women's Cup semi-finals on their debut in 2007/08 and also played in the first half of a similar run the following season before her departure. She was away when Lyon reached the final last term, losing on penalties to 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam, and is sure the club have developed since then.
"When I left, the club had ambition," Abily said. "Now that I am back, that is even higher. The club has more experience; the women's team has been around for a long time now. Results in the Champions League are better, so there are higher expectations. After losing a final, the objective is to win this Champions League."
Like Abily, Lyon coach Patrice Lair was not there for the final in Getafe last season, having been appointed in the summer. Musing on what the players will have learned against Potsdam, Lair said: "That you need to stay focused until the end. They were very close to bringing the cup back home. They gained a real advantage by getting to the penalty-kicks. I think they lost their nerve, and lacked that concentration that cost them a European cup."
Lair, who "expects" to beat Zvezda, previously led Montpellier Hérault SC to the semi-finals, and said he has worked on making the small improvement they needed. "There was some really good work done before I came here," the former lower-division men's coach said. "I came here to bring a bit more on a tactical level that I learned with the boys, and also to reduce the gap between French and German women's football a little bit, physically. That's why we work on weights, because we need girls who jump higher, who are more explosive, while keeping our technical abilities and the tactical knowledge that allows us to trouble many teams."
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