Houllier confident Lyon can maintain perfect record

November 20, 2006

MADRID, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon believe they can clinch top spot in their Champions League group with a win over Real Madrid despite being forced to field a depleted strike force for Tuesday's game.

The French champions face their final away trip of the group stage without strikers Fred, Sidney Govou, Sylvain Wiltord and Karim Benzema but coach Gerard Houllier is confident adversity will bring out the best in the rest of the squad.

'Given our recent problems, this game is the ideal opportunity to show we can triumph in adversity,' Houllier told a news conference on Monday. 'Olympique are a big team and we have a chance to demonstrate that tomorrow.

'I think it is very important to finish top of the group. We are the only team in the competition with 12 points out of 12 and finishing in first place has the added advantage of meaning we play the second leg of our first knockout game at home.'

Lyon have played Real three times in the past two seasons, notching up two emphatic wins at the Stade Gerland and drawing 1-1 at the Bernabeu. Another draw will ensure they finish top of Group E.

Real would need to beat Lyon by more than two goals to win the group.

'After our previous performances against Real no one can doubt our ability,' said Houllier. 'We have been among the top eight sides in Europe in each of the last three seasons.'

The Frenchman said Real had improved as a team since Lyon's 2-0 victory in their opening group match, but he remained confident that his side would be able to get the better of the nine-times European champions once more.

'Real are now a more developed team,' he said. 'They have played more games together, they have more team spirit and are a more effective and more pragmatic unit. They have adapted better to (coach) Fabio Capello's strategy too.

'But we, too, are a more mature team and have more tactical experience, so it will be a very interesting game.

'The two teams are already in the last 16 so it is a great chance to play with some freedom and enjoy the game.'

The Frenchman also voiced hope that his side's flawless start to this season's competition might herald their most successful campaign to date.

'This club has been in seven consecutive Champions Leagues and we have got to the quarter-finals in each of the last three seasons. There is a clear progression in what we have done, but our aim is now to dominate in Europe,' he said.

'You have to remember that Arsenal took 10 years to get past the quarter-finals, but I hope we don't take as long as that because I won't be around then.'