After a relatively drab and dour first leg, a game ultimately decided by a moment of magic amidst the mediocrity from Arjen Robben, Lyon and Bayern Munich are again preparing to do battle, facing off for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final at the Stade de Gerland tomorrow night.
With Franck Ribery and Jeremy Toulalan suspended after their dismissals in Munich, both teams will be missing one of their most influential players, with Bayern also without Danijel Pranjic (banned) and Anatoliy Tymoschuk (illness). How Claude Puel and Louis Van Gaal attempt to overcome these absences in their tactical plans for the game might well prove pivotal to the outcome of what is likely to be another closely-contested affair.
In Germany, Puel set his team out in a 4-5-1 with the wide players – Ederson and Cesar Delgado – sitting remarkably deep in an attempt to negate the obvious dual threat of Ribery and Robben. However, with Ribery suspended and Lyon simply having to attack following their first leg defeat, Puel is looks set to make several adjustments to his system.
With Toulalan, who began the first leg at centre half, suspended, it seems likely that Jean-Alain Boumsong will be drafted in to replace him, but the more interesting changes are likely to come further up the field.
Where Lyon were essentially set up in a 4-5-1 in Munich, Puel will probably shift to a 4-3-3 at home, replacing Ederson with Michel Bastos (although there are slight concerns over the Brazilian’s fitness) whilst switching Delgado to the right side.
With the wingers playing higher up the pitch, Lisandro Lopez shouldn’t find himself as isolated as he was in Germany and should get better service with wide players more concerned with getting forward than retreating to mark their opposite numbers.
In the centre of the field Puel is likely to go with the same trio that started the first leg, although John Makoun could be in line to start should the Frenchman be looking to go for broke early on. Indeed, Miralem Pjanic is likely to be give a greater creative and attacking license as Lyon look to give themselves the best possible chance of breaking their German opponents down.
Van Gaal, like Puel, also has some big decisions to make regarding his system, does he look to protect his team’s slender lead for 90 minutes or try to soak up the inevitable pressure Lyon will create before hitting them on the counter? I think the latter is the more likely option, something that could be achieved by adopting the 4-5-1 system, or at least a variant of it.
The return of captain Mark Van Bommel will add a much-needed steel to the midfield in the absence of Pranjic, with the Dutch stopper likely to be partnered by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Hamit Altintop, the latter as a replacement for Ribery but probably deployed in a much more central position with Thomas Muller shifted on to the left flank.
If Muller does play on the left, then he would probably be required to focus on disrupting his opposite number (whether that be Bastos, Delgado or Ederson) rather than the traditional attacking duties which that role demands. On the right, Robben should adopt a more advanced position than Muller, getting forward quickly to supply and support Ivica Olic when Bayern counter.
Despite the staleness of the first leg, tomorrow night’s clash should be a far more entertaining and interesting game as Lyon look to take the game to Bayern from the outset in front of their home crowd.
Tactically the game should be fascinating as Puel and Van Gaal look to outmaneuver one another, second-guessing their respective systems and looking to exploit the weaknesses of what will be two very contrasting approaches to the same match.
With Bayern having not won the Champions League since 2001 and Lyon never having reached the final, both sides will be desperate to win through at the Stade de Gerland tomorrow night and restore pride in the continental performances of these two massive clubs. It will be a huge night for French and German football and it might just turn into a footballing feast for the neutral, too.
UPDATE: Both Daniel Van Buyten and Martin Demichelis are doubts for tomorrow’s game with injuries. There is a possibility (albeit a slim one) that they will make the game, but if they don’t then Altintop could be used as an emergency centre-back, probably alongside Holger Badsturber with Diego Contento at left-back and David Alaba drafted into the midfield.
Bayern worst-case scenario XI: Butt; Lahm, Altintop, Badsturber, Contento; Robben, Van Bommel, Alaba, Schweinsteiger, Muller; Olic.