Coach Paul Le Guen has called on Olympique Lyonnais to "seize the day" against AFC Ajax.
By Kevin Ashby
Having won six European Champion Clubs' Cups between them, Internazionale FC and AFC Ajax were expected to qualify from Group D with minimal fuss. Olympique Lyonnais, though, have shown scant regard for history and can eliminate one of this esteemed pair by defeating the Dutch champions at the Stade Gerland on Wednesday.
'Seize the day'
Lyon coach Paul le Guen has called on his side to "seize the day" against Ajax. It is a call which has been met with verve and skill since the Ligue 1 winners were undone by two Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals in their opening UEFA Champions League outing this season. Victories against Rosenborg BK and Inter moved Lyon to the top of the group, a position cemented by last week's 1-1 home draw with the Nerazzurri.
Failed to ignite
In contrast, Ajax's campaign has failed to ignite since beating Lyon. They lost 1-0 at Inter before twice sharing the spoils with Rosenborg. Win, lose or draw in France their fate will be sealed at the Amsterdam ArenA against Inter next week: if Ajax beat the Italian side by two goals they will qualify regardless of results in Lyon or the San Siro on Wednesday.
Lyon have also been irrepressible on the home front. Since thrashing Rosenborg by a record margin, Les Gônes have won three times and drawn once. They climbed to fourth with Saturday's 1-0 win at AJ Ajaccio, a fine performance given that a number of key players were rested and striker Sidney Govou and goalkeeper Grégory Coupet were injured. Both will play against Ajax, though Mahamadou Diarra, ill with malaria, will miss out and Claudio Caçapa is doubtful.
'Play to win'
Le Guen said of the match: "We will just play to win - I feel obsessed by victory. We cannot predict which way the match will go but there will be chances for both sides to score." Defender Eric Deflandre added: "We have two matches in which to qualify but we want to do it on Wednesday. To finish first ahead of Ajax and Inter would be outstanding."
Ajax have already proved they have enough in their armoury to beat Lyon, although scoring away from home is a problem: they have failed to do so in their last five European games. However, coach Ronald Koeman is optimistic. "I know my team - we've only lost one match so far this season and we will go for the three points," he said. "Lyon's counterattacking is brilliant but there are opportunities to get at their defence - Inter scored three times in Lyon last week."
Van der Vaart on the bench
The return to fitness of attacking midfield player Maxwell could be the solution, the Brazilian proving his worth with the goal which salvaged a 1-1 draw at RKC Waalwijk on Saturday. Cristian Chivu was dismissed in that game but is free to play in Lyon, while goalkeeper Joey Didulica and Rafael van der Vaart are also in contention, although Koeman has confirmed the latter "will not start". Belgian youngster Jelle van Damme, meanwhile, is suspended.