Defender Patrice Evra has warned Manchester United FC against underestimating opponents Olympique Lyonnais in tonight's first-leg tie in his native France.
Manchester United FC defender Patrice Evra has warned his team-mates not to underestimate Olympique Lyonnais in their UEFA Champions League first knockout round match at Stade de Gerland on Wednesday.
The French international is well-placed to gauge the difficulty of United's task having spent three and a half seasons playing for Lyon's rivals AS Monaco FC. He was involved in many a tussle with the perennial Ligue 1 champions, most notably in 2003/04 when Lyon recovered a 12-point deficit to pip Monaco to the title. Evra is determined to avoid suffering further disappointment at the hands of Les Gones. "We need to show them respect because they've won the French league for the last six seasons," stressed the 26-year-old left-back.
Lyon's surprise weekend defeat at Le Mans UC 72, combined with United's superb 4-0 FA Cup success against Arsenal FC, appears to have swung the balance in favour of the English title-holders, but Evra warned: "Even if Lyon were poor against Le Mans, they'll be better against us without a shadow of doubt. If we're not professional, it will be very hard for us. Everyone says we are favourites because we beat Arsenal and they lost to Le Mans, but we mustn't be too confident and fall into a trap. I think we will approach the game in the right way. When you play for a massive club like United, and you have a manager like Sir Alex Ferguson keeping you in line, it is difficult to be complacent."
'Anything is possible'
Evra came close to winning the UEFA Champions League in 2004 when Monaco succumbed to FC Porto in the final. That is the nearest any French side has come to lifting club football's premier prize since Olympique de Marseille triumphed in 1993 – yet Evra regards Lyon as genuine contenders. "Anything is possible," he said. "I remember when I was at Monaco and we played Real Madrid [CF in the quarter-finals]. No one gave us a chance of winning, that annoyed us and we proved people wrong. Lyon are in a similar position now."
With 32 UEFA Champions League appearances under his belt, Evra's experience could prove invaluable, although his partner on the left, Ryan Giggs, possesses even more European know-how. The 34-year-old Welshman is poised to make his 100th appearance in the tournament, becoming only the eighth player to reach that landmark. "It's unbelievable," Evra said. "I learn a lot from him and to train with a player like that is a privilege. It's an honour I'll remember for the rest of my career."