Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Kim Källström believes the French title-holders can flourish in the unusual role of outsiders when Manchester United FC come calling.
Olympique Lyonnais may be in familiar territory as they make their fifth successive appearance in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round, yet the French club's unusually patchy form remains a source of concern before the visit of Manchester United FC.
Saturday's 1-0 loss at Le Mans UC 72 was Lyon's sixth Ligue 1 defeat of a stop-start campaign, and their one-point lead in the standings is a far cry from the 13-point cushion they enjoyed at this stage last year. Then Lyon were preparing for a last-16 showdown with AS Roma where, despite being billed by many as favourites, they were beaten by Luciano Spalletti's men.
On Wednesday, Lyon will be playing the unusual part of underdogs against a United side bristling with confidence following Saturday's 4-0 demolition of Arsenal FC but according to midfielder Kim Källström, the role reversal could work in the hosts' favour. "Being favourites certainly didn't suit us against Roma so maybe it's better to be the outsider," said the Swedish international. "We've got nothing to lose against United. They are clear favourites but anything can happen in a two-legged tie."
'We feel ready'
Lyon failed to create a clear opportunity against Le Mans and their apparent lack of fight has attracted widespread criticism, although Källström is convinced they will raise their game against United. "We haven't managed to show our true quality in recent weeks, particularly away from home, and that's worrying in terms of our league campaign," the 25-year-old admitted. "But this is a different competition and we feel ready. We've already shown by beating [VfB] Stuttgart and Rangers [FC] that we have enough character and quality to win both home and away in Europe."
Källström has established himself in the heart of the Lyon team this term though he was not at his best at the weekend, filling the defensive midfield position usually occupied by Jérémy Toulalan. The French international returns to the starting fold against the English champions, allowing Källström a freer role on the left, from where the former Stade Rennais FC man still plans to do his share of defensive work.
"We all need to defend well and close down space," Källström explained. "United will be very dangerous if we leave space for them between our midfield and defence, because they have some outstanding individuals who are fast and capable of going past opponents. They're a team set up to attack but they don't like defending as much, so it'll be up to us to try to get them on the back foot."