Real look to knock-out the jinx

Two awful statistics should be haunting Real Madrid before their first round knock-out match up against Olympique Lyonnais.

Firstly, they have been eliminated at this stage of the competition for the previous six seasons. Lyon, Liverpool, Roma, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Juventus have all progressed to the quarter finals at the expense of Real. In those twelve legs Madrid won only one – the home leg versus Juventus in 2005.

It’s all well and good (if you will excuse the cricketing metaphor) being a flat track bully. Real have hammered Auxurre, FC Zurich and Steaua Bucharest in recent seasons but in the games that have mattered their aptitude and attitude has been found wanting.

The second statistic that should fill the Castilans with dread is their record at the Stade Gerland. In three Champions League matches, they have been beaten three times and scored no goals. Lyon have twice beaten them in group stage matches and once at this stage of last year’s competition.

So, a lot of recent statistical evidence to point to as to why Real may struggle – but why am I reluctant to back Lyon or at least back against Real?

José Mário dos Santos Félix Mourinho

His Champions League record at this stage of the competition isn’t played six, lost six; it’s played six, won four, and the two first knock-out round losses both came against sides that at least got to the Final that season (Chelsea lost to eventual winners Barcelona in 2006 and Inter Milan lost to Manchester United in 2009), and as everybody knows in two of those seasons he has lifted the cup when it was all said and done.

It’s in one way rude to coaches of the calibre of Luxemburgo, Schuster, and Capello to imply that everything will be OK, because the Special One is now in charge at the Bernabeu; but failure in the Champions League is the reason that their employment was terminated, and Mourinho brought in.

Despite their appearance in last season’s semi final Lyon are not the force they were in the middle of the noughties, and their poor 3-0 defeat at home to Bayern in that tie is just one of the clues. In three of the past four seasons OL have departed the European scene at this stage (although admittedly twice to the eventual champions); after winning seven consecutive French championships they have gone two seasons without the Ligue 1 trophy and will probably make that three after this campaign.

While Lyon’s home record in Champions League knock-out games (W5, D5, L2) is impressive, their away record is no great shakes. The group stages this season further exposed their vulnerability when OL lost 3-0 away to Schalke and were 4-0 down in Lisbon to Benfica before a flurry of late goals gave the score respectability that the performance did not merit.

Expect a spirited Lyon performance, they are in good form scoring four goals in both of their last two victories, but also expect Real to overcome their jinx and reach the quarter finals for the first time since 2004, even though they might not win tonight.

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