Lyon hold off toothless Barcelona
Barcelona struggled to break down Lyon in the Champions League after an even first half and then dominating completely in the second.
Lyon 0-0 Barcelona: match report
On Tuesday in Lyon, Barcelona drew a blank in their quest to go one better than last season by qualifying for the quarter-final of the Champions League. They prevented Lyon from scoring too and will be confident of a win in the Camp Nou in three weeks time but their form in front of goal is starting to draw concern.
It was always going to be a tricky tie for Barcelona but they didn't make life easy for themselves with a congested and confused attack and despite Lyon showing their qualities in the first half, they faded badly in the second with Barcelona camping out in their half for long spells.
Valverde opted for Dembele in attack with Sergi Roberto replacing Arthur in midfield to start. While Lyon were without Nabil Fekir, they could count on Ferland Mendy despite an injury scare in the warm-up as he took a heavy knock to his ankle from a teammate.
The two sides traded blows in the first half with Messi being hauled down outside the area inside the first five minutes. He sent the free over and that was the story of the first half or Barcelona; off target and off their usual game. They had chances but they were rushed and missed along with passes that went astray. They looked a frustrated group with Lyon looking dangerous in possession too.
Dembele in attack for Lyon was doing a good job of holding the ball up and waiting for support with Depay getting Mendy and Traore involved with his passing from the number 10 role.
The second half saw Barcelona dominate but they failed to ever truly test Anthony Lopes. Coutinho had an effort that he fisted away and Suarez drove one wide from a cross from the left. Messi had a free within his range too but it struck the wall.
In the second half, as Barcelona pushed for that away goal, their frustration only grew. Suarez looked a yard off the pace and Messi was faced with two and three defenders every time he got the ball. The only reprieve Barça had in that second was Lyon's attack ceased to function and their counter attacks were ending before they even got going.
Barcelona will feel like they let this one slip and with Nabil Fekir returning to the side as their main goalscorer and creative outlet, they might have concerns about their ability to contain a lively Lyon with the pressure of last year's upset against Roma replaying in the back of their minds.
Lyon vs Barcelona live online: match updates
Lyon vs Barcelona live online: preview
Barcelona captain, Lionel Messi, said his side have 'unfinished business' at the start of the year despite winning the Copa del Rey and LaLiga titles last year. He means the Champions League and after their defeat at the hands of AS Roma at the same stage last season, they are laser-focused on Lyon as they look to end Real Madrid's monopoly of the competition. Lyon, who handed PSG their first league defeat of the season recently, are one of the worst teams Barcelona could face. They are attacking, fearless and they have nothing to lose as the underdogs. Kick-off from Lyon is at 21:00 CET.
Lyon are without Nabil Fekir, who is suspended for the game, and the onus will fall on Memphis Depay to do most of the creating in his absence. The Dutchman could play in the number 10 role and recently said he is eyeing a move to one of the bigger clubs in Europe and this is the perfect audition for the winger. Ferland Mendy, who Barcelona are reportedly interested in to back up Jordi Alba will have to be contained on Tuesday night as one of their main attacking threats down the left. “I think that Ferland Mendy is ready to face Messi,” said Lyon manager, Bruno Genesio before the game in hope rather than expectation. “We are confident in the qualities of our squad.”
If they were looking at Barcelona's display against Real Valladolid on Sunday night, their confidence might have been boosted. Barça dominated but they were poor and Gerard Piqué, who drove forward to win the penalty that would win the game, admitted "if we play like that on Tuesday, it won't go well." The reason, perhaps, for their poor performance was because of the focus on the Lyon game but Sergio Busquets says they are not obsessed with revenge for the Roma game last season. It was certainly a shock though and Ernesto Valverde, who recently signed a new deal that extends his current deal for another year, shouldered most of the blame but he says his side are hungry and ready for the test. In an erratic Champions League this season with no clear favourite, Barcelona will fancy their chances against anyone. They are without Arthur, however, who leaves a hole in midfield. Jasper Cillessen is also out along with Rafinha and Thomas Vermaelen. Samuel Umtiti is back in the squad but it looks like he will be left on the bench to start as he returns from a long-term injury.