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Champions League Round of 16 Preview: Lyon vs Barcelona

The round of 16 fixtures continue for the second straight week as the tournament favourites Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern and Manchester City will start their knockout stage.

After cruising past Tottenham and Inter Milan in the group stage, Barcelona are all set for the first knockout game of the tournament. But there are a few signs of concern for the Cules as the Catalans are not even playing half as good as they did in the group stages. And in a lightly worrying situation, they will faced Ligue 1’s third placed Lyon.

When and where to watch the game:

Lyon will host the La Liga leaders at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. The kick-off time for the game is 1:30 AM IST, on Wednesday, 20th February. India viewers can watch the game on the Sony Network and sonyliv.com.

Preview:

After their victory against Manchester City at the Etihad in the very first game of the Champions League campaign, Lyon have managed 5 consecutive draws to seal their placed in the knockout stages.

The French side is in great spirits after they broke PSG’s unbeaten streak in the Ligue 1 at the start of February. Lyon have been in a great form off late, winning six out of the last seven games in all competitions. They beat last-placed Guingamp 2-1 on the weekend and comfortably sit in the 3rd position in the league.

Barcelona, despite their 7 point lead in the league, are not exactly flying high at the moment. The Catalans had drawn three consecutive games in the league and Copa Del Rey before the y finally returned to the winning ways on the weekend, but only just. In their 1-0 victory against 16th placed Valladolid, Barcelona were far from clinical in front of the goal and were also threatened by the visitors on the counter attack on more than one occasion.

Team News:

No Fekir for Lyon!

In their first UCL knockout stage game in the last seven years, Lyon will be without their captain and main-man Nabil Fekir. The Frenchman is out with a suspension and will be back for the second leg. Tanguy Ndombele and Jason Denayer’s inclusion is still in doubts for the clash.

The Catalans will be without Thomas Vermaelen, who picked up the nth injury against Valladolid on Saturday. Arthur and Jaspe Cillessen continue to be on the sildeines while midfielder Rafinha’s season is already over. Samuel Umtiti is back in the squad after almost three months, but the Frenchman is unlikely to start against his former club.

Expected Line-Ups and Formation:

Lyon:

Lyon are likely to switch to back three with Marcal, Marcelo, Denayer to stop Barca’s free flowing football. The midfield four will include Mendy and Tete on the wings and Aouar and Tousart in the central midfield as Ndombele’s inclusion is still doubtful.

In Fekir’s absence, the Memphis Depay will be the leader of the attack. And the Dutchman is definitely ready for the challenge he has already has 6 goals and 12 assists in all competitions this season. He will be supported by Dembele and Cornet.

(3-4-3) Lopes (GK); Marcal, Marcelo, Denayer; Mendy, Aouar, Tousart, Tete; Depay, Dembele, Cornet

Barcelona:

Suarez needs to step up, after a horrible outing on Saturday

After a much changed side struggled against 16th placed Valladolid on Saturday, expect the Catalans to return to the full strength starting line-up in Lyon. Despite his wish to face his former club, Umtiti is unlikely to start so soon after returning from the injury. Pique and Lenglet will remain Barcelona’s centre-backs with Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo on the defensive flanks.

Busquets, Rakitic and Arturo Vidal will be in the midfield as the Chilean gets a chance to start a game in the European competition in Arthur’s absence. Messi and Saurez will start up front but there are a few doubts over their third partner. Dembele only just returned from the injury and it will be interesting to see if Valverde start with his despite the Frenchman looking a little rusty on Saturday. If not the 21-year old winger, the manager will turn to Coutinho, who has been in poor form off late.

(4-3-3) Ter Stegen (GK); Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Vidal, Rakitic; Dembele/Coutinho, Suarez, Messi

Prediction:

Given their current form and the pressure of delivering the Champions League this season, it won’t be an easy game for Barcelona despite what it might look like on the paper. But expect the Catalans to bag a win with crucial one or two away goals.

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