Lots to like about Lyon

  • By: David John (Twitter: @SLifeDaveJohn)
  • Last Updated: April 3 2014, 21:27 BST

David John expects Lyon to be competitive against Europa League favourites Juventus on Thursday night.

Lyon can match up on Thursday night against Juventus
Lyon can match up on Thursday night against Juventus

The Iberian Peninsula dominates the last eight of this season's Europa League with two Spanish and two Portuguese teams still in the mix for the top prize in Turin next month.

But it is Juventus who head the betting as they try and reach a final that will be staged on their ground but first things first, they have a two-legged affair against Lyon to deal with.

Their opener takes place in France and it is the hosts who can take advantage of an apparently flagging Old Lady and are worth a punt in the double chance market at 6/5.

Manager Antonio Conte saw his side's unbeaten 14-match streak ended at the weekend by Napoli in a 2-0 reverse and admitted afterwards that the recent busy schedule was starting to take a toll.

He said: "We were off-colour. We are a tired side and are playing so many games right now."

It would be a bare-faced insult to simply write off a team that is 11 points clear in Serie A and are extremely motivated to reach a European final held on their own manor.

They also have a refreshed Carlos Tevez back in the line-up after missing the Napoli game through suspension but I don't think Lyon are likely to be a pushover.

They have lost just once this season in the competition and are unbeaten at Stade de Gerland with an impressive 4-1 trouncing of Plzen their latest effort at home in the last round.

The chance to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat to St Etienne in the Rhone derby in Ligue 1 over the weekend should give them ample motivation and as their chance for a European berth next season falters domestically, the only avenue in could simply come down to lifting this trophy.

So I am keen to test how leg-weary the Italians are and get on board with the Frenchmen.

The other interesting bet on the night are Valencia on the road at Basel.

The Spaniards have a lot in their favour and when bets like this turn up a banana skin tends to appear and get in the way. But the 11/8 quoted is tempting enough for them to claim an advantage going into the second leg.

Valencia have an eyecatching profile - they have won all five away games in the Europea League season and have also managed to keep a clean sheet in their last four.

That still may not have been enough on it's own to get the better of last year's semi-finalists but the Swiss outfit have a catalogue of problems mounting up to try and overcome.

I am still scratching my head as to how they are still alive after Red Bull Salzburg squandered a host of chances to put them to bed early in the second leg of the last round but Murat Yakin's side dug deep and emerged thanks to a 2-1 victory in a game that got very tetchy indeed with two red cards.

An additional outcome was Basel must play this fixture behind closed doors following some misbehaviour from their fans so on paper that must negate some, if not most, of their home advantage.

More worryingly, they have as many as eight regulars carrying injuries with captain and leading goal threat Marco Streller a definite non-runner with torn muscle fibres in his groin.

A recent draw and a defeat in La Liga with lowly duo Almeria and Getafe respctively means Valencia's domestic campaign is drifting towards a rather tepid conclusion but I expect a different animal here with a genuine chance of silverware on the horizon.

  • Posted at 1145 BST on 02/04/2014.