Lyon vs Barcelona: Ernesto Valverde’s Best Available Blaugrana Lineup

Barcelona will travel to Lyon on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

The Catalan giants are always one of the favourites to win the entire competition, and they will be desperate to wrestle away the trophy from the grip of rivals Real Madrid, who have dominated Europe since 2016.

They will certainly be in for a tough test against Lyon.

1. Goalkeeper & Defenders

Gerard Pique

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – The German has established himself as one of the world’s finest shot stoppers with Barcelona, and will be looking for his third clean sheet in this season’s competition.

Sergi Roberto (RB) – The versatile 27-year-old brings an impressive creativity to the team’s defence, but he is in for a tough evening against Memphis Depay.

Gerard Pique (CB) – Pique has faced plenty of criticism this season, but continues to perform at a high level.

Clement Lenglet (CB) – Samuel Umtiti may be nearing a return from his knee injury, but he is not yet ready to start a match, meaning the impressive Lenglet will retain his place in the lineup.

Jordi Alba (LB) – The 29-year-old remains one of Europe’s best left-backs, and he has already registered one goal and three assists in his five Champions League appearances this season.

2. Midfielders

Sergio Busquets

Sergio Busquets (DM) – The eternally underappreciated Busquets will anchor Barcelona’s midfield on Tuesday, giving his teammates plenty of freedom to work their magic.

Ivan Rakitic (CM) – Rakitic has been the subject of frustration from many fans this season, and he will certainly be eager to prove his doubters wrong against Lyon.

Arturo Vidal (CM) – With Arthur unavailable through injury, Vidal will likely earn his second Champions League start of the season.

3. Forwards

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi (RW) – Even at 31 years old, Messi continues to astound defenders across the globe, and he will be looking to add to his six goals in the competition this season.

Luis Suarez (ST) – Suarez is yet to open his account in the Champions League this season but, after sitting out the majority of Saturday’s 1-0 win over Real Valladolid, he should be raring to go.

Philippe Coutinho (LW) – Coutinho’s form has been closely scrutinised this season, but the former Liverpool man has already racked up a goal and three assists in Champions League. A big performance on Tuesday would work wonders for his confidence.

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Neymar’s Father Speaks Out About Son’s Future as Real Madrid Renew Interest in Superstar

?Real Madrid may find themselves disappointed in their pursuit of Brazilian superstar Neymar, after the player’s father declared during an interview that his son’s present and future are with current club Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar Sr did not seem to fully rule out a transfer, however, dropping in the customary and rather ambiguous ‘[the future] can change at any time’ remark that is so common in this field.

Lebogang Phiri,Neymar Jr

A report from The Times on Sunday claimed that ‘Real Madrid have set their sights on Neymar this summer’, adding that he would receive a sizeable increase on his existing net annual salary, said to be at least €28.5m, should he quit France and move to the Spanish capital.

The story even alleges that Neymar, who would be remembered as a ‘traitor’ alongside Luis Figo at former club Barcelona if the move came to pass, has ‘encouraged’ the interest from Real.

Yet the public stance of the player’s camp appears to be one of loyalty to PSG.

Neymar Jr

In an interview released on the same day as The Times’ report, Neymar’s father told French outlet Telefoot that the €222m world record transfer superstar is ‘very happy in Paris’.

“The first year was a year of adaptation, a new experience,” Neymar Sr explained.

“He feels very happy in Paris. He is happy, and he is growing up with PSG. His future is in Paris, his present is in Paris. It’s hard to talk about the future because in football, it can change at any time.”

Neymar has generally been a success for PSG, scoring close to a goal per game for the perennial French champions. But the player is nursing a broken metatarsal for the second season in a row, threatening the club’s European success as the season enters its critical stages.

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Lyon vs Barcelona Preview: How to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

?Barcelona will travel to the Groupama Stadium to face Lyon on Tuesday in the first leg of the Champions League last 16, with the La Liga giants looking to extend their unbeaten run in the competition this season.

Barcelona topped their group after victories against Tottenham Hotspur, Inter and PSV Eindhoven, and they will be targeting a similar result as they try to bring an end to Real Madrid’s three-year domination of Europe’s biggest tournament.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Copa del Rey Semi Final

However, they will come up against a Lyon side who took four points from a possible six against Manchester City in their group, and the Ligue 1 side will certainly not be prepared to roll over for their opponents.

Here’s 90min’s preview of Tuesday’s mouthwatering clash.


How to Watch

?When Is Kick Off?     ?Tuesday 19 February                                                
?What Time Is Kick Off? ?20:00 (BST)
?Where Is it Played? ?Groupama Stadium
?TV Channel/Live Stream?                    ?BT Sport 3
?Referee? ?Cüneyt Çak?r

Team News

For Lyon, Amine Gouiri and Jeremy Morel remain unavailable, as does former ?Manchester United right-back Rafael. The Brazilian is nearing a return from a thigh injury and featured for the reserve side on Saturday, although he did manage to get himself sent off.

Samuel Umtiti

As for ?Barcelona, they will be hoping to welcome back French centre-back Samuel Umtiti from his knee injury. The former Lyon man was pushing for a return in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Real Valladolid, but was ultimately left out. ?Rafinha, Jasper Cillessen and Arthur will also miss out through injury.


Predicted Lineups

?Lyon ?Lopes; Dubois, Marcelo, Denayer, Mendy; Aouar, Ndombele, Troare, Fekir, Depay; Dembele.
?Barcelona Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Vidal; Messi, Coutinho, Suarez.?

Head to Head Record

The two sides have met six times in the past, but their most recent meeting came at this stage of the Champions League in 2009. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Barcelona stormed to a 5-2 victory at the Camp Nou thanks to goals from the likes of Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and ?Lionel Messi.

Barcelona's French forward Thierry Henry

They also faced off in the group stages in 2007, and it was Barcelona who again got the upper hand, earning a 3-0 victory which was followed by a 2-2 draw in Lyon. The ?La Liga giants have failed to win in their last two away matches with Lyon, which will likely give the home side confidence, even if the two teams haven’t met in ten years.


Recent Form

2019 has seen some incredibly varied form from Lyon. They recently managed a five-game winning streak which included handing Paris Saint-Germain their first loss of the domestic season, only to follow that result up with a shock 1-0 defeat to OGC Nice. However, Lyon managed to get back on track with a victory over EA Guingamp on Friday.

Moussa Dembele

The visitors have also endured a challenging run of form in recent weeks. Barcelona laboured to two consecutive draws against Valencia and Athletic Bilbao in the league, but earned a win over Real Valladolid to give them some momentum heading into Tuesday’s fixture.

Here’s how each team has performed in their last five fixtures:?

?Lyon Barcelona?
?Lyon 2-1 EA Guingamp (15/2) ?Barcelona 1-0 Real Valladolid (16/2)
?OGC Nice 1-0 Lyon (10/2) ?Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Barcelona (10/2)
?EA Guingamp 1-2 Lyon (7/2) ?Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid (6/2)
?Lyon 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain (3/2) ?Barcelona 2-2 Valencia (2/2)
?SC Amiens 0-1 Lyon (27/1) ?Girona 0-2 Barcelona (27/1)

Prediction

As is the case with most of their fixtures, Barcelona come into this one as the favourites to? advance. At their free-flowing best, they have enough to overcome any side on the planet.

However, with three draws in their last four games, they clearly have not been on top form. Lyon have the potential to cause them real problems, and victories over both PSG and ?City this season prove that they have more than enough in their locker to get the job done.

Lionel Messi,Jordi Alba,Ivan Rakitic

The two teams can both play some of Europe’s best football, and Tuesday’s meeting certainly has the potential to be a thrilling affair. However, with Messi and ?Luis Suarez leading the line, Barcelona should earn themselves a crucial advantage in the tie.

Prediction: Lyon 1-2 Barcelona

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Paul Mariner Claims Roberto Firmino Would Be the Perfect Replacement for Luis Suarez at Barcelona

?ESPN FC pundit Paul Mariner believes that Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino would be the ideal replacement for Luis Suarez at Barcelona.

Firmino has become a crucial element to Klopp’s side and lays the carpet perfectly for players like Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to shine. The Liverpool striker is not afraid of paving the way for others to be in the spotlight rather than himself which is perhaps what makes him so admirable. 

Luis Suarez

Suarez, who joined the Catalan giants from the Reds  in 2014, has been hugely successful in Spain scoring an impressive 168 goals from 230 appearances for La Blaugrana in all competitions. This season he’s managed to rack up 15 goals in 22 appearances, despite many people believing his ability is decreasing with age.

With Suarez turning 32 this January, there have been countless reports stating Barcelona are on the lookout for a potential replacement for the Uruguay international. Mariner believes the La Liga front-runners need look no further than Firmino.

The Daily Star quoted the pundit, saying: “I know that I will upset all of the Liverpool fans, but just look at what he does. Just look at some of his link up play and I think that would be perfect for Barcelona.


“I know Coutinho hasn’t done it at Barca but Firmino is a different player. Firmino does it all for me. He is tremendous.”

Barcelona were rumoured to have been interested in the Brazilian last October as they too thought he would complement Lionel Messi perfectly. However, Liverpool’s number nine recently signed a long-term contract with the club so any transfer would likely cost the Spanish champions a massive transfer figure.

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Ernesto Valverde Insists Barcelona Will Be Ready for ‘Four Important Matches’ After Narrow 1-0 Win

?Ernesto Valverde admitted that his side were not at their best on Saturday but insisted that Barcelona will soon return to top form after the Blaugrana beat Real Valladolid 1-0 in La Liga.

Barca struggled to find fluidity in their play and lacked their usual cutting edge in attack, though a Lionel Messi penalty in the first half was enough to ensure that the champions returned to winning ways, after drawing 0-0 away to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

After Saturday’s game, Valverde claimed that ?Barca’s slight dip in form will not last long. As quoted by ?Marca, the Spaniard said: “In the first half, we had very little fluidity in attack and did not move the ball with the necessary speed.

“They changed their system and we were not fluent and could not circulate things quickly but their goalkeeper did well.

“Some games are won like that, though, and Tuesday [against Lyon] will be another challenge for us.

“I see the team as being ready to give their best now and get back to that.

“Sometimes you won’t be brilliant in every game but there are four important matches coming up and we will go step by step.”

Valverde made a number of changes to his starting XI against Valladolid, with the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Carlos Alena and Thomas Vermaelen coming into the side in place of ?Luis Suarez, ?Ivan Rakitic and Clement Lenglet, ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash.

Boateng in particular struggled to make an impact and was replaced by Suarez early in the second half, but Valverde defended the January signing’s efforts in the game. 

“Boateng came to us at a difficult time of the season and that can be tough to do when you haven’t been participating regularly and don’t know the mechanisms of the team,” Valverde added.

“He has helped us through and will do so even more.”

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