Lyon defender Marcelo optimistic about beating Barcelona, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Lyon defender Marcelo optimistic about beating Barcelona

Gone are the days when Lyon were France's dominant club, winning seven straight league titles in the last decade, and tomorrow morning's last-16, first leg against Barcelona will be their first Champions League knockout match in seven years.

Unable to keep up with Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, it would be a major shock if Bruno Genesio's team beat the Catalans over two legs.

However, while Lyon have no Lionel Messi, and their revenue last season was less than a quarter of Barcelona's - a huge 690.4 million euros (S$1.06 billion), according to the Deloitte Football Money League - they are genuine competitors to Barca elsewhere.

According to the CIES (International Centre for Sports Studies) Football Observatory on the number of players to have been trained at youth level by clubs who have gone on to play in Europe's five leading leagues since 2014, Lyon are right on the tails of Spain's giants.

Barcelona and Real Madrid each provided 69 players, with Lyon third on the list with 56, two fewer than Manchester United but with more minutes played overall.

Barcelona have not been as reliant on youth from their renowned La Masia academy recently, tending towards buying proven talent instead, including France centre-back Samuel Umtiti from Lyon.

Three of Lyon's starters as they beat Guingamp on Friday have emerged from their academy: goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, Houssem Aouar and Nabil Fekir.

The latter helped France to World Cup glory in Russia and a move at the end of this season seems likely, with Fekir set to follow in the footsteps of many before him.

Since Lyon last won the title in 2008, the list of youth products to have come through before being sold for big money is a long one - Karim Benzema, Anthony Martial, Umtiti, Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, to name but a few.

Youth development is vital for Lyon.

A more regular presence at this stage of the Champions League is the aim, but can all that help OL beat Barcelona, especially with Fekir suspended tomorrow?

"Manchester City are one of the best sides around and we beat them," Lyon's Brazilian defender Marcelo told AFP.

"Maybe this year will mark the return of the great years for Lyon in the Champions League."