Real Madrid Champions League Rivals: Olympique Lyonnais

LYON FRANCE - FEBRUARY 22: Anthony Reveillere of Lyon (L) in action with Alvaro Arbeloa of Real Madrid in action during the Champions League match between Lyon and Real Madrid at Stade Gerland on February 22 2011 in Lyon France. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Again?

For the third year in a row, Real Madrid is facing the French team in the Champions League. In Pellegrini's year, Real was eliminated from the competition, while last season we prevailed with a 4-1 in the aggregate.

Lyon is not that much of a dangerous team anymore, and they are no longer buying expensive players. As a matter of fact, this season they've seen two of their important men out of the team. Defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan headed to Malaga for 11M€ after being in Lyon for five years. Chelito Delgado, one of their most talented players, left the team as a free agent and signed later for Monterrey in Mexico.

In 2002 Olympique Lyonnais started a seven year winning streak in Ligue 1. Back then, the team was lead by men like Sidney Govou, Juninho, Malouda or Essien. In 2007, our star Karim Benzema arose and became one of the most promising and desired strikers in the world. But Lyon never was a team of stars. They've always had high quality players to make up a balanced team. I don't want to understate Lyon's streak, but the French Ligue was not very powerful at the time, so it was easy for them to dominate for such a long period of time. All the team's other stars like PSG's Ronaldinho or Marseille's Drogba left the league, so Lyon could kept control while getting money from the transfers of Essien, Malouda, and our former player Mahamadou Diarra.

Lyon signed Lisandro López from Oporto to fill Benzema's spot, and he has been good but not consistent. Last season they spent 22M€ to bring Yoann Gourcuff, a promising midfielder that made Girondins Burdeaux champion in 2009. However,  he has not been lucky with injuries and has not lived up to the potential he showed in 2009.

It would be fair to say that their best actual player is probably the Goalkeepr Hugo Lloris. He is the starter in the French National Team, and he is so good that Manchester United was interested in replacing Van der Sar until they signed David De Gea.

In the defensive line, their best player is Cris. This Brazilian center back is rough and quick, but he sometimes makes big mistakes because of his lack of concentration, such as last season's Benzema's goal in Real Madrid's 3-0 win in the Bernabeu.

Michel Bastos is a very dangerous wing man. He is very fast and can dribble past many defenders. Bastos also has a very good long distance shot that he displays, especially in the free kicks. He can play in both wings, but he is left-footed, so he's probably best at his left, where he would face Ramos.

Miralem Pjanic and Gomis are also dangerous, young players. Gomis is a Drogba-like striker, very powerful and hard to stop, but he usually is the backup of Lisandro. When López is in shape, he is really a menace to every goalkeeper. Pjanic is more a passer than a finisher; he usually creates the game, but whether he gets a chance as a starter or not remains to be seen.

Although Real Madrid should beat them, it would be a surprise if Lyon can't get the second spot on the group, and it's likely that our games against them will be the most important ones to secure the top position.

They are not the team they were before, and they will surely miss Toulalan, but it's always hard to play in Gerland during the winter. They they will surely be dangerous at some point of the match.

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