After a 0-0 draw in the first leg of this last-16 tie, La Liga leaders Barcelona face tricky French opposition with a view to staying in the hunt for a Champions League title which Real Madrid have vacated. The Catalan side dominated the contest three weeks ago on the banks of the Loire but were unable to convert any of the 25 shots they had into an away goal – so they will need to be careful that they don’t get caught out by an opponent that already has a win over Manchester City to its credit this season.
Barca come into this game with confidence that matters are in hand domestically, leading La Liga by seven points and having just ended Real’s hopes in league and cup. If they can progress here, they will become a strong contender to pluck the one title their loathed rivals still hold. If that isn’t an incentive to win tonight, nothing could be.
Barcelona vs Lyon Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Lyon
Lyon’s thrilling young side showed immense quality to progress unbeaten from a group which contained Manchester City, and they maintained that record three weeks ago, albeit thanks to their goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, who time and again kept the Messi, Suarez and co. at bay with eye-popping saves. Can he repeat that performance in front of a packed Camp Nou? He’ll need to – and may even need to exceed it given the home side’s record in front of their own fans. Still, there is a decent chance of Lyon getting on the scoresheet themselves, with forwards Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele keen to keep a dream alive.
Our recommended tip: BTTS
Although these are two well-rounded sides, it’s hard to deny that both are at their best when they get forward and have the chance to create. It was a surprise that the first leg ended without any score, and a repeat of that outcome would be even more shocking. While we fully expect Barcelona to progress, they may well not have it all their own way – their need for a goal may lead to spaces being left and the imperious skill of Nabil Fekir in Lyon’s midfield will always be a threat in that situation. Unibet have odds of 10/11 on Both Teams To Score, and we’d recommend taking that price.
As previously noted, these sides shared no goals the last time they met, but both created more than a few openings, with goalkeepers Lopes and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen called into action repeatedly. The sides have, in fact, met regularly in this competition, with results generally mixed between Barcelona wins and score draws. The last meeting before this year came in 2009 at this stage of the same competition, with Barcelona winning 5-2 in the second leg to progress 6-3 on aggregate. On the scoresheet that night was Leo Messi; along with defender Gerard Pique, he’s one of two players from that tie who will be present this evening.
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Players to watch: Leo Messi & Moussa Dembele
In the argument over who – between himself and Ronaldo – is the best active player, Messi has the advantage in many areas. The one glaring point where he falls behind is in Champions League medals – he has four to his rival’s five. Messi may well have the chance to even those totals up, but he’ll need to help his side through this game first. The Argetinian’s skill and sharpness in front of goal are known to football fans worldwide; he’s also capable of laying on chances for his team-mates, and will be the focus of his side’s attack here.
Dembele’s move from Celtic gave Lyon the central striker they had seemingly lacked in a team which was otherwise bursting with attacking talent. After a slow start in France, the skilful French star has settled to a goal-every-other-game record and was on the scoresheet when Lyon inflicted PSG’s only domestic defeat to date this season. Occasionally prone to disappearing from games, he’ll need support to make the impact he can here, but he is surrounded by more experienced talents including Depay, and could take the biggest step of his career tonight.