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Rangers the favourites, says Lyon boss

Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas belives that his side will go as underdogs as they are all set to face Scottish team Rangers at Glasgow.

sports Updated: Dec 11, 2007 11:54 IST
Patrick Vignal

Olympique Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulus has cast his side in the role of underdogs in Wednesday's decisive Champions League game at Rangers.

While Rangers need to avoid defeat in Glasgow, the six-times French champions have to win to join unbeaten Group E leaders Barcelona in the knockout stages.

Barca top the group on 11 points from five games, followed by Rangers and Lyon on seven. Bottom-placed VfB Stuttgart have three points and are eliminated.

"Rangers are the big favourites," Aulas told reporters. "They beat us 3-0 in Lyon, they will be at home and can rely on tremendous support.

That does not mean Aulas, whose team warmed up in poor fashion with a 1-0 Ligue 1 defeat at Caen on Saturday, has given up all hope: "Favourites don't always win," he said.

Lyon coach Alain Perrin rested several first-choice players for the Caen match, which Brazil midfielder Juninho and France striker Karim Benzema both started on the bench.

Rangers manager Walter Smith was in the Caen stands and believed his French spying trip had been worthwhile.

"Lyon left out three or four players who I have no doubt will play on Wednesday", he told his club's Web site (www.rangers.co.uk).

"But we got a bit more information on them and it is always good to see some live action rather than watch a video of them. It gives you a certain view of the game and I wouldn't say it was a wasted trip".

"BIG CHALLENGE"

Although they have never gone beyond the quarter-finals, Lyon, who are desperate to make an impact in Europe, have reached the last 16 in the previous four campaigns.

They made life difficult for themselves this season by starting off with two 3-0 defeats, at Barcelona and at home against Rangers.

"This is our first big challenge of the year," Aulas said. "Of course we would have preferred to warm up with a win but I'm convinced we can do what we need to."

Lyon captain Juninho agreed the defeat at Caen was not relevant. "Even if we had won 10-0, it wouldn't have changed anything," he told reporters. "We have to respect Rangers because they beat us 3-0 at home and not many teams have done that.

"We also know they're a tough side and can rely on the best fans in the world," he added. "We have to be patient and ready to play under pressure. If we manage to resist during the first 20 minutes, our chances will come."

Rangers will have to keep a close eye on set piece artist Juninho, who will play his 50th Champions League match, and on Benzema, Ligue 1's top scorer with 12 goals.

The home side will be without injured French striker Jean-Claude Darcheville, who should be replaced up front by Kris Boyd.

Probable teams:

Rangers: 1-Allan McGregor; 2-Alan Hutton, 24-Carlos Cuellar, 3-David Weir, 28-Steven Whittaker; 6-Barry Ferguson, 8-Kevin Thomson, 27-Lee McCulloch, 11-Charlie Adam; 29-Daniel Cousin, 9-Kris Boyd.

Lyon: 30-Remy Vercoutre; 2-Francois Clerc, 29-Sebastien Squillaci, 5-Mathieu Bodmer, 11-Fabio Grosso; 28-Jeremy Toulalan, 8-Juninho, 6-Kim Kallstrom; 14-Sidney Govou, 18-Hatem Ben Arfa, 10-Karim Benzema.

Referee: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)