Having lost at FC Barcelona, Olympique Lyonnais favourite Sidney Govou says "our campaign starts for real" against Rangers FC at Stade de Gerland tonight.
Much has changed at Olympique Lyonnais in recent months but the Stade de Gerland faithful will turn to a familiar face for inspiration in their vital Group E meeting with Rangers FC. With old favourites such as Florent Malouda, Eric Abidal and Tiago gone, and Grégory Coupet and Cris out injured, the sight of Sidney Govou rampaging up the wing is particularly reassuring for followers of the French champions.
Poised to make his 50th UEFA Champions League appearance on Tuesday, Govou knows all about winning crunch games and is determined to see Lyon put their 3-0 Matchday 1 defeat at FC Barcelona behind them. "It's never easy to start a campaign away from home, especially when you go to Barcelona," Govou said. "We've been criticised because of the heavy scoreline but we've analysed the game, learned from our mistakes and moved on. I feel our campaign starts for real against Rangers and we have to get the three points."
Lyon's timid performance at Camp Nou and several unconvincing displays in Ligue 1 have led some to question the club's transfer dealings. But Govou defends the new signings emphatically, saying: "To people outside the club, it may look like there are problems but that's not what we feel. We've lost good players but the boys who have come in have quality and we also have some great youngsters. Of course it's hard to replace someone like Abidal, not just because he's a top player but also because he was a strong presence in the dressing room. But it's important to give the new faces time to bed in."
In light of the many comings and goings, Govou's continued presence in the Rhone Valley may be regarded as a surprise. The 28-year-old youth-team product has frequently been linked with a move and he was reportedly close to joining Rangers when Paul Le Guen went to Ibrox. When asked for how long he considered teaming up with the former Lyon boss in Glasgow, Govou joked: "I thought about it for so long I ended up staying at Lyon".
Yet the French international is quick to express his admiration for the British game, saying: "I like English and Scottish football a lot. I spoke to my former team-mate Jérémy Clément about his experience at Rangers and he confirmed what I had suspected: the mentality is totally different. It's a very full-on style of football because teams attack without worrying too much about what might go wrong."
'Win at all costs'
Govou was reminded of that spirit when Scotland beat France at the Parc des Princes last month, though he remains confident of avoiding a repeat on Tuesday. "I don't want to make comparisons because international football is totally different to club football, and also the context isn't the same," Govou said. "France didn't have to win at all costs but we do. We know Scottish players are physical and we must go in for all the tackles, but I feel we have other qualities. We can play good football and it's important we try to impose our style."