Josh Mart previews Lyon’s round of 32 knockout tie away at Ukrainian club Chornomorets Odessa. Travelling to a country like the Ukraine has always been difficult for western European teams, but the situation in Europe’s 2nd largest country is so hostile and dangerous at the moment due to anti-government protests, that travelling to play here is an all new challenge for Lyon and their fans.
Lyon will have been relatively happy with the draw, except the practical difficulties as they managed to avoid higher ranked opponents who finished 2nd in their groups. Despite this though, Chornomorets finished above European stalwarts Dinamo Zagreb and PSV Eindhoven to qualify from the group phase, so they do have some quality.
The away leg in Odessa will be very important in deciding Lyon’s fate in this year’s Europa League as if Lyon can get a positive result here it will drastically improve Remi Garde’s men’s chances of progressing.
Chornomorets Odessa haven’t played a competitive fixture since their superb 1-0 win in Eindhoven in mid-December but they have been in decent form in mid-season friendlies, beating Romanian teams Petorul Ploiesti and Universitatea Cluj. They currently sit 5th in the Ukrainian Premier League, a respectable position given the pedigree of teams above them.
Lyon has been in much better form in Ligue 1 since the turn of the year, losing just once since the winter break. This weekend’s 3-1 win over Ajaccio will give Garde’s men a confidence boost ahead of the trip to Ukraine.
Squad Selection and Tactics
The hosts will probably line up in a 4-3-3 formation with Argentine Fontanello and Ukrainian Kovalchuk at the heart of the Chornomorets defence. Gai should start in midfield alongside Bobko and possibly Brazilian Leo Matos. The three up front should consist of talented Antonov, who has been in great form this season, alongside pacey Ivorian Dja Djedje and hit man Didenko as talented Spaniard Sito Riera is suspended.
Lyon has taken a very young and inexperienced squad to Odessa, as they did when they won in Rijeka in the group stages. Garde has left A. Lopes, M. Lopes, Umtiti, Bedimo, Gomis, Grenier and Gourcuff at home for this one. Some would say that this shows a lack of ambition but it could be seen as a way to give the youngsters invaluable experience of continental competition. Given all the changes I would expect Lyon to line up in a conventional 4-3-3 formation with Vercoutre to start in goal. Mehdi Zeffane will probably start at right back with Bisevac and Kone a potential partnership at centre back. Fofana and Ferri are most likely to start and Lyon will be boosted by the return of Ghezzal to the squad. Lacazette’s contribution will be key as the absence of Gomis and Grenier adds more pressure on the talented Frenchman’s shoulders.
Dja Djedje (Chornomorets) – The Ivorian front man sealed Chornomorets passage to the last 32 with the winning goal in Holland against PSV Eindhoven. The former Nice and Arles man could cause Lyon’s inexperienced team problems with his pace and trickery.
Lacazette (Lyon) – The striker-cum-winger has been in terrific form this season, scoring 13 in just 23 appearances. His goals and general play since the turn of the year have really aided Lyon’s rise up the Ligue 1 table. He has great pace and he makes very intelligent runs which enable the other forwards to find space. Expect him to cause Chornomorets problems.
Lyon will know the challenge that they face tonight in Odessa, especially with a somewhat understrength squad. However, they will know that a positive result will nicely prepare them for the return leg at the Stade Gerland next week. Expect them to go for an away goal and a tight game.
Prediction: Chornomorets 1-1 Lyon