Josep Guardiola has some very specific instructions for his FC Barcelona players against Olympique Lyonnais: attack from the off, treat the visitors with respect, and do not give Juninho Pernambucano a free-kick chance.
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Josep Guardiola has a short but very specific menu of instructions for his FC Barcelona players ahead of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round second leg against Olympique Lyonnais.
Guardiola wants his side to avoid conceding free-kicks in their own half, to attack from the first whistle and to treat Claude Puel's team with the utmost respect. The tie is delicately balanced at 1-1 following a brilliant free-kick from Juninho Pernambucano and Thierry Henry's headed reply at Stade de Gerland, and Guardiola remains wary of Wednesday's visitors.
"This is a club that has my total admiration," explained the 38-year-old coach. "They have won seven consecutive French championships despite changing coaches, despite selling players, and that tells me Lyon are an exceptional organisation. I want my players to treat them with firm respect."
Barcelona are likely to give Andrés Iniesta his first UEFA Champions League outing since suffering a thigh injury against FC Basel 1893 on 4 November. Iniesta returned from a further knock for Saturday's 2-0 defeat of Athletic Club Bilbao, sparking an immediate improvement in Barça's play after a month without a victory. "We performed well," confirmed Guardiola. "Now I expect my team to push Lyon back, create more chances and score. The best way to defend is to attack well."
There is another thing Barcelona have to remember. "Juninho is a massive danger at set-pieces because some of his free-kicks are impossible to defend against," Guardiola said. "He has all the time in the world to decide where to put the ball and enough talent to pull it off. We have to be smart and not give away fouls in the last third of the pitch."
Since visiting Lyon, the Blaugrana have reached their 34th Copa del Rey final but lost captain Carles Puyol to an ankle problem. Neither Gabriel Milito nor Eric Abidal, long-term absentees, are close to comebacks. For his part, Puel is likely to be able to pick both defender Jean-Alain Boumsong and striker Karim Benzema despite respective hamstring and hip complaints. Following league and cup defeats by LOSC Lille Métropole and a 1-1 draw against Stade Rennais FC, their availability is a boost for the 47-year-old trainer, who is already without Anthony Réveillère, Sébastien Faure, Sidney Govou and Fábio Santos.
"We are optimistic Karim can play, which is important because we'll have opportunities to score and it will be vital to take them," said Puel. "The quality of our display in the first game is the major argument that we can surprise everyone and knock Barça out. We'll need to be more consistent physically and tactically for 90 minutes, rather than just an hour as in that game. They are hard to dominate, technically or tactically, as one of the best teams in Europe. But that's our task. Most of my team have played in this stadium before so I don't expect them to be affected by the crowd or the atmosphere. It's a big match for us but I hope, with respect, that there are even bigger ones waiting for us later in the Champions League this season."