French winger Antoine Griezmann admits it will be an emotional occasion when he visits boyhood club Olympique Lyonnais with Real Sociedad de Fútbol on Tuesday.
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French winger Antoine Griezmann admits it will be an emotional occasion when he visits his boyhood club Olympique Lyonnais with Real Sociedad de Fútbol on Tuesday night.
The 22-year-old former France Under-21 player was picked up by Real at the age of 14, and last June it was his goal against RC Deportivo La Coruña that took the San Sebastian club into the UEFA Champions League play-offs. The draw against Lyon brings Griezmann up against fellow 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Championship winners like Clément Grenier and Alexandre Lacazette, and he is raring to go having already trained on, for him, hallowed turf.
"For me, Lyon has been my club since I was a kid," he said. "I used to come to see all the Champions League matches here with my father. Seen from Spain, Lyon are a club that counts, a historic club.
"The moment I stepped on the Stade de Gerland pitch, I felt a lot of emotions," Griezmann added. "I even pointed out the spots in the stands where I used to sit. I can't wait until I put my boots on tomorrow. But there's no feeling of revenge: I just want to play. This will be my first competitive match in France with Real Sociedad - and to top it off, it'll be a Champions League match."
Griezmann is not the only Real player familiar with the Gerland, as a 1-0 defeat there in the 2003/04 round of 16 began a nine-year European exile that will only end on Tuesday. Midfielder Xabier Prieto said: "I sat on the bench during that match, so tomorrow I hope to be able to help my team. Ten years ago, we met a great Lyon team, and we had a good squad too. I don't think things have changed that much."
Real won their Liga opener 2-0 against Getafe CF on Saturday and Lyon have also been in fine form with a maximum six Ligue 1 points, Grenier and Lacazette both impressing. Coach Rémi Garde said: "The successive victories gave us a boost but let's be realistic, we have yet to play a 'complete' match - we sometimes did well during one half, or a part of a match, but never during the entire game. We need to improve in the way we control the matches. We play to win, as everyone else does, and it's even more important given the squad is so young."
The 'safety net' of a UEFA Europa League group place in defeat is a comfort to Garde. "We're lifted by the fact we've already qualified for a European competition this season: there's no black hole after this fixture, no matter what happens. Of course, the Europa League is not like the Champions League, but it's still a great competition to participate in. We're freed from that pressure."