Kick Off: 20:45 CET - Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - Stade Gerland, Lyon
Barcelona have a chance to put their first league defeat since the opening day of the season behind them when they travel to Stade Gerland on Tuesday evening to take on Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League.
The Blaugrana were surprisingly beaten in the local derby against Espanyol on Saturday, and have had to suffer the sound-bytes and celebrations coming from Madrid and the criticism closer to home.
Pep Guardiola and his players will welcome the opportunity to return to winning ways with an impressive display in France that would prove that the Blanc i Blau reverse was just a blip.
On the flip-side, anything other than a god display will see those hoping to for a Barcelona slip-up shout even louder that the bubble may have burst at Camp Nou as the pressure increases.
If this game had been played a week ago, then all the statistics and records would have meant that very few would have predicted anything other than Lyon having to sit back and try and do what they could to stop their visitors.
Barça have netted over 100 goals in all competitions this term and had only been beaten on the first day of the league season by Numancia before last weekend, and against Shakhtar Donetsk in the last Champions League group game, by which time they had already qualified.
The away side are still viewed as favourites to progress in the tie, and Lyon have been looking to ensure that the pressure is taken off them by stating that they are playing the best team in the world.
While Lyon coach Claude Puel rates Barcelona very highly, their players are claiming that the French team have nothing to lose as nobody expects them to do well.
It is that kind of talk that Guardiola must keep his players away from because presumption may have been one of the reasons that the Catalan outfit slipped up at the weekend against Espanyol.
Lyon are top of the French league and on course for an eighth consecutive title triumph after winning at Nancy in their last Ligue 1 outing, and have several stars of their own that Barça will have to watch.
Karim Benzema has stated that he wants to win the Champions League with his hometown club, but a good performance over the two legs against Barcelona and he could be trying to help another team win it next term.
Puel and Guardiola may be meeting as coaches for the first time, but the pair have been on opposite sides as players as the Barça trainer helped the Blaugrana to win both legs against the French team's boss who was playing for Monaco in 1993-94.
Last season the teams met home and away in the group stage, and after a 2-2 draw in Stade Gerland, Barcelona ran out 3-0 winners in Camp Nou as Henry and Messi both netted after François Clerc had put through his own goal to open the scoring.
A repeat performance would certainly see the pressure on the Catalan coach ease, but a draw or defeat would leave the doubters able to claim that the Camp Nou wheels are beginning to wobble.
21/02 A 2-0 Nancy
15/02 H 3-1 Le Havre
08/02 A 3-1 Nice
01/02 H 1-1 St Etienne
28/01 H 1-0 Marseille
24/01 A 6-0 Concarneau
21/02 H 1-2 Espanyol
14/02 A 2-2 Real Betis
08/02 H 3-1 Sporting Gijon
05/02 H 2-0 Real Mallorca
01/02 A 2-1 Racing Santander
29/01 H 3-2 Espanyol
The hosts rested Benzema, Juninho Pernambucano, Fabio Grosso and Kader Keita at the weekend, and all are expected to play against Barcelona. Puel's only dilemma is on the right where Clerc and Anthony Reveillere are both out so Lamine Gassama and John Mensah will have to play.
Probable Starting XI: Lloris, Gassama, Grosso, Mensah, Boumsong, Toulalan, Makoun, Keita, Mounier, Juninho, Benzema.
Eric Abidal will be unavailable to face his former club in either leg after picking up a knock at the weekend that has sidelined him for two months, while Andres Iniesta and Gaby Milito ar both still out. Carles Puyol or Sylvinho will move to left-back to cover, while Guardiola must choose between Sergio Busquets and Seydou Keita to play in the midfield with Toure Yaya and Xavi.
Probable Starting XI: Valdes, Alves, Sylvinho, Puyol, Pique, Toure, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Messi, Eto'o.
If the defeat by Espanyol has refocused Barcelona then Lyon can expect a long evening of chasing the ball and having to push up to try to disrupt their opponents' midfield play. If not, then the French team could remain patient and wait for the nerves to start showing in the Blaugrana and then hope to make the breakthrough.
Olympique Lyonnais 1 - 2 Barcelona
Lucas Brown, Goal.com
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