Champions League preview: Bayern Munich v Lyon
One of Lyon’s nicknames is “Les Gones” – “The Kids” – and if their players take that to heart then there would have been plenty of cries of “are we there yet?” from the travelling party during their 800km coach journey to Munich for their first Champions League semi-final.
We all know why such an arduous trip was necessary, but in truth Lyon have been on the road to the latter stages of the competition ever since it started.
They beat Liverpool at Anfield and hit eight goals in two games against Debrecen on the way to finishing second in their group, before humbling a typically well-fancied Real Madrid and then taking no little delight in seeing off French rivals Bordeaux – who took their Ligue 1 title away from them last season for the first time in eight years.
Ten mini vans were required for the last stage of Lyon’s journey to Munich, but the convoy (eventually) arrived at the semi-final stage in good heart, and with good reason.
The “white van men” – which will surely take its place alongside “Les Gones” as a new moniker should the white-shirted French side be successful tonight – possess one of Europe’s most-sought after young goalkeepers in the France No. 1 Hugo Lloris (pictured), the highly-rated 20-year-old Bosnian playmaker Miralem Pjanić and lethal Argentinian forward Lisandro Lopez. All three – and their teammates – will be travel-weary, but they’ll have to be on their game to get anything tonight.
Bayern Munich enter battle at their stunning Allianz Arena as firm favourites.
If the rest of Europe wasn’t fully aware of their quality, then they underlined it with a quarter-final victory over Manchester United. In previous campaigns, going a goal down to Wayne Rooney’s second-minute strike in the first leg would have been curtains for the Bavarians, but they now have a squad capable of challenging any side across Europe.
The hard-working Ivica Olić scored in both legs against United, and while Bayern might have been fortunate with the red card for home defender Rafael da Silva at Old Trafford, nobody could deny that Arjen Robben’s divine winning goal wouldn’t have deserved to win any game.
In the Dutchman, the German international Bastian Schweinsteiger and the flying Frenchman Franck Ribéry – who will play tonight despite much-publicised revelations about his private life – Bayern have three players who aren’t just capable of winning the game tonight, they are capable of winning the whole tournament.
The three will look to control the game from midfield, and provide the ammunition for Olić and probably Miroslav Klose – Germany’s second-highest goalscorer of all time behind the great Gerd Müller.
These are the players that a weary Lyon will have to stop, and Bayern are sure to sense the chance to put the tie beyond doubt this evening.
That is unlikely to happen, but a home win looks the most likely outcome, as the Germans chase a first Champions League final since they last won it in 2001.
It might not be the end of the road for Lyon just yet, but Bayern will hope that they’ll travel no further.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2 Lyon 0