It’s very rare to see a domestic league game getting more attention than a Champions League knockout stage one. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to Olympique Lyonnais and Juventus, as the upcoming Derby d’Italia and the Coronavirus situation in Italy have somewhat overshadowed the game on Wednesday.
While Maurizio Sarri’s men can consider themselves rather fortunate to draw Lyon in the Round of 16, they should be extremely careful with their approach for the first leg in France.
The tight Scudetto race, the fact that arguably the most anticipated game of the Serie A calendar will be played behind closed doors as well as the health emergency in Italy mean there are plenty of distractions for Juventus, who would be dead wrong to underestimate Lyon.
Despite their shaky start of the season, the French side have improved gradually throughout the campaign and now enter the decisive months in a much better position than they were initially.
At one point in October, Lyon had just one victory in 11 games and were wandering in the bottom half of the League 1 table. However, those struggles seem to be long gone now, as Rudi Garcia’s men have now lost only two of their last 15 games and have climbed up to 7th place.
Lyon’s recent results show that the ex-Roma tactician has now managed to find some balance after the injuries that key figures like Memphis Depay, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Youssouf Kone and Leo Dubois suffered in December.
The French side’s home form has been crucial for their positive streak since the start of the year, as the Kids are still undefeated at the Groupama Stadium in 2020 with their last defeat being a 1-0 loss to Rennes on December 15.
If Lyon’s home form isn’t enough of a concern for Juventus, the away performances of the Bianconeri should worry Sarri and co. The Turin Giants have lost two out of their five visits in 2020, with neither of their performances being convincing enough.
Inexplicably the Bianconeri almost always struggle to impose their authority during away games even against inferior opposition and Lyon would hope that would be the case on Wednesday as well.
The home side can count on Rudi Garcia’s Serie A expertise, as well as on Joachim Andersen who has been a key piece at the heart of Lyon’s defence since moving from Sampdoria in the summer.
Lyon’s backline currently looks much better than it did earlier in the season, as they have kept three clean sheets in their last five games. This looks even more impressive, considering that Garcia has been jiggling with his line up and has been switching between a three and a four men defence occasionally. That being said, each of those clean sheets came when Lyon played four at the back, so the ex-Roma tactician would probably use the same approach against Juventus.
Depay’s injury has been a huge blow in attack, but fine domestic form of Moussa Dembele, who has netted 14 league goals, as well as the emergence of Houssem Aouar have done the job domestically so far.
However, Dembele is yet to score a goal in the Champions League this term, while Aouar has netted only once in the competition, so one of Lyon’s biggest weaknesses against Juventus is undoubtedly their attack.
The French side had a fine record of nine goals in six games in the Group stage, but with Depay scoring five of those, the home team would be desperate for Dembele to find his scoring touch against Juventus.
Lyon are the clear underdogs against Juventus, as the absence of Depay and other key players strip them off from their attacking potency. On the other hand, the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as the inconsistency of the hosts’ defence, makes it really hard to imagine the Bianconeri not scoring at least once on Wednesday.
However, Sarri has already admitted several times throughout the campaign that his players didn’t have the right approach for certain games. The Scudetto clash with Inter is just around the corner, so even more than the shaky away performance and the quality of the opposition, potential lack of concentration and complacency will pose the biggest danger for Juventus against Lyon on Wednesday.