Why Toko Ekambi & Lyon Could Be UCL Dark Horses Vs Man City - 9jaflaver

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Why Toko Ekambi & Lyon Could Be UCL Dark Horses Vs Man City

The Ligue 1 outfit secured a colossal victory over Juventus in the last 16 but will lightening strike twice against Pep Guardiola’s troops? 

The excitement brought about by the Champions League’s shortened format this year has thrown several curveballs, with RB Leipzig’s win over Atletico Madridon Thursday night the perfect example.

On Wednesday, Atalanta were minutes away from an unexpected win over one of the favourites Paris-Saint Germain before the Ligue 1 giants turned the game on its head late on to secure a 2-1 success.

While Olympique Lyonnais’ elimination of Juventus on away goals doesn’t quite count, given it was the reverse fixture of the Round of 16 tie, it’s set up a potentially fascinating clash with another of the competition’s favourites Manchester City.

In truth, Pep Guardiola’s side are in better shape than the Old Lady were going into their clash with Lyon last week, defeating La Liga champions Real Madrid comfortably. While Maurizio Sarri’s side hadn’t pulled up trees in their Serie A run-in, which undoubtedly gave the French club the necessary self-belief, City have largely been unplayable since the Premier League’s restart in June.

Indeed, the post-lockdown form proves this, with Pep’s team atop that mini-table with eight wins from 10 after the restart, scoring a staggering 34 times and conceding just four. Still, as evidenced by their defeats by Chelsea and Southampton, the Citizens can always be got at defensively.

This is what Karl Toko Ekambi and his Lyon teammates will be out to exploit on Saturday, seeking to prevent the former Barcelona boss from making his first semi-final appearance as Man City boss. The Cameroon forward, now signed permanently from Villarreal, was involved in both legs against Juventus and only the woodwork prevented the African striker scoring in the first meeting at the Groupama Stadium.

Despite cutting a peripheral figure in Turin last Friday until his 67th-minute substitution, the striker is expected to play a part in Rudi Garcia’s game plan in Lisbon this weekend. The former Roma boss values the Cameroon star’s influence, demonstrated by how keen he was for the striker to join for keeps from the Yellow Submarine.

“We still have to build the team. We corrected the situation during the winter window, bringing in Bruno Guimaraes and Toko Ekambi,” Garcia told OLTV, per the Ligue 1 website. “Here at the club, we’re all in agreement that we want to keep Karl.”

Even though he only returned to France in January, the Indomitable Lion has slowly become one of Garcia’s most influential players. According to Fbref, the striker is third behind Moussa Dembele and Memphis Depay for Expected Goals per 90 and is only behind the Dutchman for Expected Assists per 90. Interestingly, when penalties are excluded, only Depay outdoes the 27-year-old in the side.

Whether the pair can exploit the weaknesses in this City side, however, remains to be seen. Another reason this game has generated so much interest and has the added edge is the fact Pep’s team struggled against Lyon in both encounters last season.

Les Gones not only got four points from a possible six in their group meetings, including a 2-1 success in Manchester, then-coach Bruno Genesio was able to limit the four-time Prem champions to just one clear-cut chance over 180 minutes of football.

While the coach, tactics and personnel (only six starters from those games in 2018 started the last game vs Juventus) have changed since, the plucky French side will certainly look to keep things tight at the back, deny Pep’s side space in the attacking third and hope to catch them on a rare bad day at both ends of the pitch.

This is easier said than done, but it isn’t impossible.

As Chelsea, Southampton and especially Arsenal proved after the lockdown, this City side have a soft underbelly and tend to gift opponents a chance from bizarre mistakes or lapses in concentration in their defensive third.

Even against Real Madrid, despite their dominance for large periods, the Cityzens’ rearguard strangely allowed Karim Benzema rise unchallenged to head home the equalizer on the half-hour.

It came against the run of play but that has often been the case with Pep’s side this season.

Their volatility means the average observer really can’t tell which side you’re going to witness: the team that put eight past Watford in October, the one that put in arguably their best league showing vs Leicester City in December or the version that failed to breakdown Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final regardless of their lion’s share of possession.

Whenever Man City are on their game – dominating the ball, creating chances and giving little away to the opposition – they are nearly unplayable. However, standards have slipped in the last 12 months, leading to a plethora of strange results.

Toko Ekambi and his teammates will hope to catch City on one of those rare bad days, where they seem out of sorts at both ends of the pitch and nothing seems to click.

If they do, the Kids could claim another huge continental scalp after eliminating Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus. Otherwise, Lyon will say goodbye to the Champions League having been denied a first semi-final appearance since 2009/10.

source:- goal

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