Lyon v Bayern Munich
Wednesday 19 August, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
Don't expect Bayern to become complacent
There was a brutal ruthlessness about Bayern Munich on Friday, as they sliced and diced a pitiful Barcelona in an 8-2 quarter-final victory. No mercy, and no let-up, as hell-for-leather pressing and almost telepathically-co-ordinated attacking play were the order of the day from the first whistle to the last. Ivan Perisic and Serge Gnabry caused mayhem out wide, Thomas Müller's elusive movement was a delight to behold (Barcelona must've felt they were trying to pin down a cloud) and Thiago ran the midfield like a Harlem Globetrotter in full flow. Left-back Alphonso Davies' assist for Joshua Kimmich's goal was a jaw-dropping thing of beauty, a modern wonder of the world that zoomed onto people's smartphones and tablets before Barca had even processed what the Canadian youngster had done to them.
And yet, absurdly, Bayern weren't at their best. They played with a dangerously high defensive line in which the back four was too narrow (rampaging left-back Jordi Alba was given too much space for both Barca goals), Davies was exposed at times defensively, and it took a while for Thiago to settle. All of those elements will have annoyed demanding coach Hansi Flick, and he'll have rammed those points home to his players. As the experienced Müller reminded everyone post-match, that 8-2 win is now just a pleasant memory, with the semi-final starting at 0-0. Bayern have though won 19 competitive games in a row, and they haven't lost since December.
Right-back Benjamin Pavard is back in training after injury, and it's possible he could return to the side, with Joshua Kimmich moving to midfield. That might mean the omission of either Thiago or the all-action Leon Goretzka, which would be a huge call.
Garcia and company confounding the critics
One of the hardest battles Lyon have fought this season has been the one with their own fans. Central defender Marcelo, who was excellent in the 3-1 quarter-final win over Manchester City, was dubbed a "donkey" on an offensive banner held up by some OL fans in December. His captain Memphis Depay was so enraged by the incident that he raced towards the banner and tried to grab it. Marcelo's wife Tatiana Guedes became embroiled in the row, while coach Rudi Garcia spoke up on behalf of Marcelo and Depay, having himself been the victim of vitriol from Lyon fans because of his previous connections with Marseille.
Garcia had been parachuted in after Sylvinho's brief and disastrous spell as coach. Sylvinho's fellow Brazilian Juninho made an inauspicious start as sporting director, one he couldn't solve with one of those legendary free-kicks of his. With Garcia at the helm, Lyon limped to seventh in Ligue 1, facing the prospect of failing to qualify for Europe for the first time in over two decades.
Not many therefore gave them a chance of making an impact in this competition. After months of inactivity due to the early shutdown of Ligue 1, Lyon went into last month's Coupe de la Ligue final with PSG as underdogs. Ultimately, they lost that showpiece occasion on penalties after a goalless draw, but their solidity and competitiveness was impressive. They then edged out Juventus on away goals in the UCL after a 2-1 defeat in Turin, before their piece de resistance against Manchester City. Pep Guardiola played into Garcia's hands with an unsettling team selection and formation, and Lyon took advantage with cool finishing and stout defending.
There's a lot to like about Lyon. Garcia has switched to a three-man defence, and in front of them, young midfielders Maxence Caqueret and Bruno Guimaraes have produced a vigorous shield, while the elegant Houssem Aouar provides the craft. There is potency in attack too, with Memphis aided and abetted by the mobile Karl Toko Ekambi. Moussa Dembele, who scored twice against City, is an excellent alternative.
Bayern to progress in a lively manner
Had Manchester City not imploded to the degree they did a few days ago, Lyon wouldn't be lining up for this semi-final. While one shouldn't detract too much for Les Gones' achievement, a City team playing in its usual attacking style and formation would surely have been too strong for them. Bayern's form in 2020 has been extraordinary, and a repeat of the incredible work they did with and without the ball against Barcelona shouldn't be beyond them, if not the scoreline.
That said, Bayern will always take risks, and I expect Lyon to score here. Bayern have only managed three clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions, and Lyon have enough quality in attack to exploit the kind of positional errors Bayern made early on against Barcelona.
I'll back Bayern to win and both teams to score at 13/10 on the Sportsbook.
If you just want to back Both Teams To Score, that outcome is trading at 1.794/5 on the Exchange.
Müller to make his mark again
Thomas Müller was a force of nature against Barcelona, scoring twice and outfoxing some very experienced defenders. With the in-form Robert Lewandowski (who has scored in his last nine games) priced at 4/11 to score and Serge Gnabry also odds-on at 10/11, I believe Müller is a value option at 13/10.
On the Lyon side of things, converted winger Maxwel Cornet is a real threat at wing-back, and scored an excellent opener against City. Given the amount of space that Jordi Alba was given by Bayern, I'd suggest that Cornet is overpriced in the To Score market here at a hefty 6/1.