Pressure off for Lyon, says Garde

The coach believes playing in the Europa League if defeated would still be a positive, while Real Sociedad striker Carlos Vela is taking a calm approach
Olympique Lyonnais boss Remi Garde has his sights set on the Champions League group stage but believes that the pressure is off as further European football is guaranteed.

Les Gones face Real Sociedad on Tuesday with aspirations of being victorious over the two-legged play-off and qualifying for the last 32, with defeat meaning qualification for the Europa League group stage.

Garde does not see defeat as disastrous but he has called on his players to perform well for 90 minutes after impressing intermittently in Lyon's two victories in Ligue 1 this campaign.

"We're lifted by the fact we've already qualified for a European competition this season," he told reporters. "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.

"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."

Meanwhile, Real forward Carlos Vela is hoping that the team do not crumble under the pressure of trying to reach the Champions League group stage.

"I have told [my team-mates] that being in the game you forget everything, how much is at stake, that you are in Europe," Vela told AS.

"And I just think that it is a football game. If we can put our nerves aside, which will be plenty for those who are in their first Champions League match, then the better for it, to play a great game as always.

"We are looking at what we must do. It is a special game as we play for a place in the group stages, but we face it with the mindset that it is not the most important game of the year."