Despite beating Real Madrid in the previous round, Lyon initially did not have much enthusiasm for their chances of beating Bordeaux. But a hotly disputed debate in the past week over a league game has raised morale and added an edge to tonight's Champions League quarter-final meeting of France's finest at the Stade Gerland in Lyon. And it will be Lyon who may have the support of the neutrals for once.
It all stems from the issue over when they should play a game against Grenoble. Originally scheduled for last Friday, Bordeaux complained that it was unfair and would allow Lyon an extra day's rest before their European encounter as they faced Marseille in final of the French league cup on Saturday. After much bickering, the appeals eventually ruled in favour of Bordeaux. But as Laurent Blanc's side lost to Marseille, Lyon beat Grenoble. The mood had changed.
Jean-Michel Aulas, the Lyon president, said: "I thought that Bordeaux were sure of themselves, but when I saw that nit-picking for us to play against Grenoble on Saturday, I realised that Laurent Blanc was less confident than I imagined." Playing a team from their own league may put pressure on Blanc's side for the first time in the tournament. Their impressive march to the last eight has been helped by the fact that few expected it, especially when their group stage rivals included Bayern Munich and Juventus.
But now Bordeaux are the favourites. After ending Lyon's seven-year domestic dominance last season, they are France's future. But Blanc admitted they have not been as convincing in recent months. "In 2010, some individual players are below [par]," he said. "I'm looking for them to make progress on Tuesday when we play Lyon." Blanc needs his players - not just prize pair Youann Gourcuff and Marouane Chamakh - to be at their optimum level in tonight's first leg.
For Lyon, this is a chance to show they are no spent force in France and the Madrid victory was no fluke. With gifted players such as Miralem Pjanic and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, there should be no doubt. Yet Lloris revealed: "We're not playing against Bordeaux, we're playing against ourselves. "Our difficulties in Ligue 1 have been down to us rather than the opposition. We have this ability to raise our game, but sometimes we have a few problems; whether that's down to a lack of confidence or a passing game which isn't at the right level yet, for our standards, or for the standards of the French league. It's a question of being demanding of yourself, individually and as a team."
The standards in the Champions League are even higher and Lyon will have to show they are worth a first-ever semi-final appearance. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org