Lyon have never won the Champions League. Their best campaign in Europe was their 2009/10 semifinal effort, in which none of their current players featured. It's fair to say they're outsiders facing one of Europe's Giants - Juventus.
Lyon managed to pull ahead 1-0 in the first leg which took place over 5 months ago. You wouldn't go so far to say it was lucky, but it was certainly a game where Juventus just couldn't click, registering just 2 shots on target from their 17 attempts. With no away goal, Juventus have to hold tight and play for a clean sheet whilst chasing 2 goals to ensure they're through in 90 mins. If they concede, they've got to sling men forward and put on a show to advance.
Before the pandemic stopped play, many would have thought Juve would comfortably host the French outfit without breaking a sweat. The Serie A Champions had more energy, more class and more momentum that plenty would've deemed sufficient to overcome a 1-0 deficit in the first leg. Even up until couple of weeks ago, most fans would have thought that the Serie A restart would favour The Old Lady. It's given them time to be match-ready and get back into the swing of competitive football. Lyon have not had that luxury. However, energy and momentum is certainly something that lacks within the Turin-based side right now.
Juve played a rotation squad, including members of their u23 team in the final game of the season yesterday against Roma. Ronaldo and Dybala watched from the stands, whilst Bentancur, Cuadrado and other first team regulars remained on the bench for 90 mins to rest before the Champions League kicks off again. They've played 5 games in 12 days; no team in Europe has had to play so many. Lyon may not have had such competitive fixtures to help prepare them, but they'll be chomping at the bit to get stuck into a fixture that means something. Juventus, on the other hand, look less than enthusiastic on the score sheet at the moment.
Juve's form since the restart hasn't been all that impressive before we even consider fatigue into the equation. In their last 8 games, they've picked up 8 points out of a possible 24.
Nonetheless Juve have won Serie A. They still have the class in their rankings. And Ronaldo has a tendency to turn up on the biggest of stages. Even in their defeats they've looked dangerous. In an earlier game this week, a 2-0 defeat to Cagliari, they recorded the most shots they've ever attempted in a Serie A match without scoring since Opta's records began.
The question is still lurking in the shadows, do they have enough in the tank to overcome Lyon next Friday?
How dangerous are Lyon?
Lyon have not had a great season, and there are several reasonable factors that reinforce their underdog status. They were in 4th place when Ligue 1 was abandoned, a good 20 points off the pace after 28 games. They squeezed through the group stages with 8 points in 6 games, only beating Zenit and Benfica by 1 point. They've had months without competitive football now too, making it particularly difficult to predict how they'll look on the field.
In the first leg against Juve back in February, Lyon had 40% possession, 7 fewer shots and committed twice as many fouls. In short, they were not in the driving seat and the 1-0 victory belies their weaknesses.
With the scene set, let's identify who could be the hero for Lyon.
Players to Watch
Memphis Depay | £4.36 Market Value
Depay was a huge loss to the French side when he suffered a knee injury back in December, destined to keep him out for the entirety of the season. The delayed continuation of the Champions League has fortunately given him the opportunity to return to action should the club wish, as he's reportedly now fully rehabilitated. The Dutch international had scored 9 and assisted twice in just 13 league games, whilst he'd scored 5 in in as many matches in the Champions League.
At £4.36, you'd expect a good dividend return for a 26 year old. Depay does just that, with a very impressive PB profile in 22 games this season.
With the new dividend structure introduced, and summer promotions available including 5x IPDs, Depay could be a fantastic hold should he return to action in the same form against Juventus. Ligue 1 continues shortly after, so IPDs could continue to pay out and subsidise the initial investment. If he can reproduce such a season and stay fit, his PB profile looks attractive at his price point. An additional bonus factor with media speculation starting to build makes the investment a little more sugar coated. There's a lot of different aspects that could improve his price point, whilst the PB history he boasts looks fair value at £4.38.
Houssem Aouar | £2.81 Market Value
The 22 year old Frenchman has long been considered a huge talent. Aouar is outgrowing his wonderkid hype, though his tender age infers there's a lot yet to come. Aouar has played 30 PB games this season, and although his average is unflattering, he's hit a peak PB of 275.
Aouar offers a creative option from a midfield position, he's assisted 3 and scored 1 in his 5 Champions League games. There's little doubt he'll be an important figure in Lyon's attempt to defend their 1-0 lead.
Should I Invest now?
Defence will be the order of the day. It's unlikely a high PB score will come their way, as they'll more than likely concede possession and attacking play in favour of compact counterattacking football. That said, if they can catch a break on the counter when Juventus throw men forward, it'll be the likes of their speedy forwards that can potentially conjure up a game winning goal. Moussa Dembele offers speed, whilst Depay had been clinical before his injury. It's hard to see Lyon scoring many, despite Juventus' shaky defence in recent games.
The combination of Lyon's likely defensive mindset with Juventus' attacking power means PB is likely to fall to the Italian outfit's forwards in the event of a draw. An upset could occur, a draw will be enough to see Lyon through - they're not chasing a tonne of goals, so perhaps the defensive players are an alternative option if you can see a clean sheet coming.
The primary trader concern in this fixture is in fact another match. City are playing Madrid on the same day, and both teams have fire power and PB dominants. It'll be a great surprise to many traders to see any Lyon players taking Gold Matchday dividends next Friday.
The short-term investment opportunity is a risky one for Champions League football. The real gem is the return of Ligue 1, as the IPDs during this period could be a huge benefit for the likes of Depay and co. The youthful Lyon side have plenty of room for improvement, but show good potential to better challenge PSG next season. They have an opportunity to take PB in their domestic fixtures before the rest of Europe restarts, so if you're looking at investing in Lyon for the upcoming season, now looks a good time - they'll likely rise in value if they surprise on the European stage next week.
An upset is on the cards, but from a trader's perspective the short-term gains are simply a bonus. The true investment in Lyon is in the coming months should their offensive abilities improve. Depay is the obvious investment, though a whole host of their regulars are young and equally as exciting to watch.
If you don't believe Lyon can progress, perhaps hold off investing now to better capitalise on their IPDs and potential rises when Ligue 1 returns in the coming weeks - you may also get the shares for a better price in a couple of weeks time too as some traders may offload if Lyon tumble out of Europe.