Olympique Lyonnais, who have qualified for the knockout rounds in the last five campaigns, hope to dominate once again as they start against a ACF Fiorentina side returning to the competition after nine years away.
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The group stage of the UEFA Champions League has proved a happy hunting ground for Olympique Lyonnais. They finished second behind FC Barcelona last season but previously had posted four successive first-place finishes. The challenge once again as they start at home to ACF Fiorentina in Group F will be to continue that dominance into the knockout rounds.
• France's seven-in-a-row champions begin a ninth successive tilt at the group stage under new coach Claude Puel and against Italian opponents who take their place in the UEFA Champions League for only the second time, and the first since 1999/00. On that occasion, the Viola finished in second place in the first group stage to qualify for the next group phase, where they finished third behind Manchester United FC and Valencia CF.
• Last season, Lyon began with a 3-0 defeat at FC Barcelona, followed by a home loss by the same score against Rangers FC. In the previous three campaigns, they had achieved two wins and a draw on Matchday 1. However, after that stuttering start Lyon dropped only two more points in their four remaining fixtures to finish in second place.
• In the first knockout round they had high hopes as they led Manchester United FC on home soil until Carlos Tévez equalised three minutes from time. At Old Trafford, they succumbed to Cristiano Ronaldo's first-half goal to depart at the last-16 stage for the second successive season. Their previous three campaigns had all ended in the quarter-finals.
• Italian sides were responsible for Lyon's demise in two of those seasons, 2005/06 and 2006/07. On neither occasion did Lyon manage to win – or even score a goal – at the Stade de Gerland. In the first game, a quarter-final tie against AC Milan, it ended 0-0 in France with the Italians winning their home game 3-1. A year later, AS Roma were the opponents and after a 0-0 draw in the Italian capital, Lyon went down 2-0 at home.
• That defeat, and Rangers' success 12 months ago, have taken the gloss off the club's splendid home record in the UEFA Champions League. Until 6 March 2007, they were unbeaten in 18 games at home, with 12 resulting in victory. Now, over 23 games, their record is W13 D8 L2.
• Lyon have welcomed Italian visitors to their ground on six previous occasions in total, winning twice, drawing twice and losing twice. This is the first time they have met Fiorentina in European club competition, while the Florence club have won once in their previous four visits to France.
• In the 1989/90 UEFA Cup, they drew 1-1 at FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in the second round, a result which was enough to put them through on away goals. In the quarter-finals, they beat AJ Auxerre 1-0 at home and matched that scoreline in France. In an all-Italian final, they lost 3-1 on aggregate to Juventus.
• Fiorentina drew 0-0 away to FC Girondins de Bordeaux in the second group stage of the 1999/00 UEFA Champions League. That result fell between wins at home against Valencia and United, but they lost their grip on a semi-final place in the next three games and ended up in third. That contrasted wildly with their fortunes in the first group stage, when they began with two draws and a defeat but then showed improved form to earn a qualifying berth.
• The Italian league's fourth-place finishers qualified for the group stage after coming through the third qualifying round. Cesare Prandelli's side got off to a flyer at home to SK Slavia Praha with Adrian Mutu putting them ahead within three minutes. Alberto Gilardino, making his competitive debut after his summer switch from AC Milan, then made it 2-0 in the second half, an advantage Fiorentina protected in a 0-0 draw in Prague.
• Gilardino was in the AC Milan that side beat Lyon in the 2005/06 quarter-final. He started the first leg, a 0-0 draw in France, but failed to get off the bench as the Italian side won 3-1 at home in the return fixture.
• In the UEFA EURO 2008™ final tournament, Mutu scored for Romania against an Italian team which included Lyon full-back Fabio Grosso. He also missed a penalty. In Romania's previous outing, he faced a French side featuring Karim Benzema and Jérémy Toulalan. Against Grosso and his Italian team-mates, France included Benzema, Toulalan, Sidney Govou, François Clerc and, as a substitute, Jean-Alain Boumsong.
• The other game in the group features FC Steaua Bucureşti at home against FC Bayern München.