Lyon, Porto await Champions League clash

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Wednesday sees the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final between Olympique Lyonnais and Porto at the Stade Garland in Lyon.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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Wednesday sees the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final between Olympique Lyonnais and Porto at the Stade Garland in Lyon. The French side lost two-nil in the first leg two weeks ago and have an uphill task if they are to reach the tournament semi-finals for the first time. The Portuguese side are the favourites to progress but the reigning UEFA Cup winners may suffer a setback before kick-off as South African striker Benni McCarthy, the equal top scorer in the Portuguese league with 17 goals, is still a doubt with an ankle injury. Olympique Lyonnais have never reached the semi-finals stage of the Champions League competition and have done well to get this far - they are the lowest scoring team in the tournament and must cast aside a rigid, defensive approach if they are to secure that elusive semi-final berth. Porto, the reigning UEFA Cup champions, dominated Lyon in the first leg two weeks ago, winning two-nil with goals from creative midfielder Deco and defender Ricardo Carvalho. Stiff challenge Lyon's coach Paul Le Guen accepted he faces a stiff challenge restructuring a team stronger in defence than chasing a two-goal deficit against a solid, well-drilled Porto side which eliminated England's Manchester United from the competition. "I tell myself that we have a chance, a historic chance to go through the semi-final. Porto is favourite because of the result of the first leg, because they won the UEFA Cup and because of their experience but with the support of our crowd in the Gerland (stadium) and by playing a better game than in Porto, we can turn back the situation. It's going to be difficult but difficult doesn't mean impossible, we have to be convinced about this," said Paul Le Guen, Olympique Lyonnais coach. Both teams go into the match following domestic league defeats. Porto lost on Saturday for the first time in the Portuguese league this season, a two-nil defeated by Gil Vicente while Lyon lost two-one at home to Marseille and, in a big blow, lost French national striker Sidney Govou with a thigh injury in the process. Lyon's goalscoring hopes will rest on Peguy Luyindula and Brazilian striker Giovane Elber - a Champions League winner with Bayern Munich in 2001. Meanwhile Porto will be relying on the craft of Deco, the first leg scorer but South African striker Benni McCarthy - equal top scorer in the Portuguese league with 17 goals - could be in doubt with an ankle injury. Porto favourites Coach Jose Mourinho - regarded as one of best young coaches in Europe - has guided his team to some impressive wins. Their playmaking midfielders and bright, attacking play has claimed some impressive scalps - including that of Manchester United. He thinks the battle will be won psychologically by the team least affected by the pressure. "For me, the best way to take this opposition is to think that it's a game, just a game, not a fight for qualification - if it's a game, our first intention is to win the game. Our second intention is not to lose the game," said Jose Mourinho, Porto coach. And Mourinho's confident they will not. "I think that we are the favourites if you remember the first leg result but Lyon have a chance and they can put us in trouble. But I'm very positive and I think we'll reach the semi," Mourinho said. And previous form would back his judgement - Porto have a finer European pedigree than Oympique Lyon. The Portuguese outfit won the European Cup against Bayern Munich in 1987 and beat Celtic last year in a thrilling U.E.F.A. Cup final. (AP)

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