Olympique Lyonnais and 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam meet in the UEFA Women's Champions League final for the second successive season on Thursday, with the French side looking to avenge last term's defeat in Madrid. Though their coach Patrice Lair is full of respect for Potsdam counterpart Bernd Schröder, he is confident his squad has the depth of talent to claim the club – and country's – first European title sooner rather than later.
UEFA.com: Bernd Schröder has been in charge of Potsdam for many years now – what do you think of the work he has done there?
Patrice Lair: He's a real phenomenon in women's football. In Germany, when I went to the [semi-final second leg] between Potsdam and Duisburg, I could see how much charisma he has. The crowd loves him because he has led them to many trophies. I played against him with Montpellier five years ago in the European Cup and we drew 0-0.
His team has not changed much in terms of the system they use, a 4-3-3 which folds back defensively with five players and man-marking. They are very efficient with three very talented players up front, very strong players who can score any time.
UEFA.com: Against Arsenal, Louisa [Necib] didn't start while Corine Franco is now back from injury. Could the bench make the difference?
Lair: Of course, but this will also depend on the system I use. It depends if I want more players in midfield or if I want to play deep. I have an idea about which team to start but I have a strong squad with many talented players. There will be some talented players on the bench, but they can come on and bring the little extra that's missing at a certain point.
UEFA.com: Which players have really emerged this year and impressed you the most?
Lair: The group has improved together. We've done a lot of tactical work and are able to react quickly to the problems that our opponents may cause us. We often change our system during the game; that has been our strength. There are some important players; Shirley Cruz [Trana] in midfield and Amandine Henry, the defensive midfielder, are very important.
Then, of course, there's the experience that Sonia Bompastor brings at the back. Wendie Renard has improved a lot as well. There's Camille Abily, who's able to do the right things in big games. There are many players. Louisa [Necib] also has the ability to pull us out of difficult situations. I have some speed on the wings with Élodie Thomis, Lara Dickenmann and Eugénie Le Sommer, who has reached a higher level this season. She came from a smaller club in the first division and she made the difference during the semi-final against Arsenal by scoring twice.
There has been strong improvement, but I want to give credit to a real team effort. The team really has talent and that's what saves coaches sometimes.
UEFA.com: You coached Sonia Bompastor and Sabrina Viguier in the past as well. Why did you bring these two players with you to Lyon?
Lair: When I moved here, my goal was to have Sonia Bompastor and Camille Abily come back here, then Sabrina Viguier, who I knew really well. A very intelligent player who positions herself really well and knows me, she adapts really well to my systems. On top of that, she's very calm and brings something extra. She's been having a great season.
UEFA.com: You reached the semi-finals with Montpellier in 2005/06 of course.
Lair: Yes. The main problem was the return leg. We won 1-0 in Frankfurt and we lost 3-2 at Villeneuve les Maguelones. We missed a penalty from Hoda Lattaf, but on that day Sonia Bompastor and Camille Abily were suspended. I did not have the same squad as at Lyon. It was a pity, because we could have maybe won a European Cup for France, but I hope this year will be the year.
UEFA.com: After a semi-final, now a final; that's new for you?
Lair: It is a challenge.
The president hired me to win the European Cup. I want to become the first French coach to win the trophy with a women's team. I hope it will be this year; if not, then next. On a personal level, I am in a hurry and would love to win it this year.
UEFA.com: There were 20,000 people for your semi-final home leg against Arsenal. That's incredible for a women's game?
Lair: It is, but the whole club pulled in our direction, supporting the women's team. I didn't expect to have 20,000 spectators. Everything was perfect that day: the weather was great, a great atmosphere, we won 2-0. It was nice and I hope that it will happen more often.
UEFA.com: What type of final do you expect? What atmosphere do you expect?
Lair: I hope it will be a tremendous event and that it will get better every year. I think UEFA has improved a lot in that sense, especially in women's football. Every year we see the Champions League final is getting more and more important. This year it will be better, and then even better in years to come.
I hope that it will be a good spectacle. We will attack and try to overcome Potsdam. I hope the fans will go crazy and there will be a nice party in the stadium. I hope Potsdam will do the same. What I really want to see is some quality attacking football, so that the people will enjoy it for the whole 90 minutes.
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