Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Vikash Dhorasoo hopes positive thinking will overcome FC Porto.
By Pete Sanderson
Vikash Dhorasoo may come across as the most relaxed footballer on the planet - but there is one topic which will set his pulse racing.
Defeat in Porto
The mere mention of Olympique Lyonnais's 2-0 defeat against FC Porto a fortnight ago transforms a seemingly unshakeable smile into a scowl and, it seems, only an aggregate victory after tonight's second leg of this quarter-final tie will ensure his grin is restored.
"It will not happen again," Dhorasoo said. "Porto caught us off guard in the first leg but we have watched the video, cleared our heads and are ready to do battle at the [Stade] Gerland. We know we can win this game - we must be careful not to concede a goal but we are incredibly focused and will show the rest of Europe exactly what we are capable of doing tonight."
Dhorasoo's defiant attitude is typical for one of Lyon coach Paul Le Guen's pretenders. After coming so close in recent years, Lyon finally advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League this season where they swept aside Real Sociedad de Fútbol in the last 16.
There have been whisperings in the French media that their confidence borders on arrogance - but this inner belief is undoubtedly part of the reason why Lyon have been so successful, winning the last two French championships. "We are a positive bunch of players," said the 30-year-old, who has won two caps for France but has only the slightest chance of inclusion in their UEFA EURO 2004™ squad.
Sights set higher
"If we weren't so positive we would probably not have won Le Championnat last year or have gone further than Manchester United [FC] in this year's Champions League. In all honesty though, we said at the start of the season that the quarter-final was our aim and anything else was a bonus. But now we're here, we have set our sights much higher."
Work cut out
Lyon certainly have their work cut out. The French champions have still to win a Champions League game by more than one goal this season. Porto, meanwhile, have yet to lose away from home in this year's competition and have already won on French soil in the group stage - against Olympique de Marseille, the side who ended Lyon's seven-match unbeaten run in Ligue 1 last weekend.
"I think we were slightly distracted by this Champions League fixture," confessed Dhorasoo, who has excelled in his role alongside Juninho Pernambucano in Lyon's midfield this season. "But we are still second in the league only one point behind [AS] Monaco [FC] and are confident we can retain the championship. It has been a tough season physically as we have so many games and a fairly small squad. But we work well as a unit and have benefited from the signing of experienced players like Giovane Elber."
Coach Le Guen's threadbare squad has been exposed ahead of this fixture with French forward Sidney Govou (hamstring), Claudio Caçapa (knee) and Eric Carrière (thigh) all ruled out. Ironically, the one man who has finally recovered from a long-term injury is defensive midfield player Christophe Delmotte - the man whom Dhorasoo has replaced in the Lyon midfield.
Competition for places
"It is great that Christophe is back," grinned Dhorasoo. "But if he thinks he's going to walk back into the team and replace me he can think again!" A match-winning performance from the midfielder will doubtless ensure he retains his place.