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Scouting Lyon ahead of the Women’s Champions League quarterfinals

It’s already been a historic European campaign for the Juventus Women. Can it continue against the French powerhouse who is looking to get back on top of the competition?

Juventus v Olympique Lyon - UEFA Champions League Women Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates/Getty Images

It is pretty rare to find Juventus Women in up-and-down form, but that’s what the team finds itself entering Wednesday night’s Champions League quarterfinals against Lyon in Turin. Since the beginning of 2022, Juventus has seen its league winning streak end just two weeks before their 54-game unbeaten streak was also snapped.

Over the last five matches, Juventus has dropped seven points — which is the most over a five-match span in the club’s history. Now, Juventus may be faced with its biggest challenge of the season while seemingly in its worst form of the season.

So sure, confidence may not be at an all-time high, but Juventus still has positioned itself as one of the final eight teams in Europe for the first time ever.

Meanwhile, Lyon has been a staple in this part of the competition, making the quarterfinals in all but two years since 2007, including each of the last seven seasons. And they usually don’t stop there, making an appearance in the final for five consecutive seasons before that run came to an end last year.

Lyon seems set to have that same kind of success, as it has dominated the top division in France so far this season and is now a heavy favorite in this tie with Juventus. In 17 league matches, Lyon has dropped just two points while outscoring its opponents 68-7. That included a 6-1 thrashing of its top league rival, Paris Saint-Germain.

During the Champions League campaign, Lyon has won seven of its eight games with a plus-19 goal differential. The team’s lone defeat came against Bayern Munich during the group stage but Lyon still finished top of the group.

A big reason for Lyon’s success is its depth and versatility in attack. Six different players have scored multiple goals in Champions League play with 10 players getting on the scoresheet in eight European matches. American Catarina Macario has led the way from her attacking midfield hybrid role, scoring 14 goals in all competitions, including three in the Champions League. She has also added six assists.

Olympique Lyon v Bayern München: Group D - UEFA Women’s Champions League
Catarina Macario in action against Bayern Munich during the group stage in November.
Photo by Johannes Simon - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Twenty-one-year-old Melvine Malard is one of the top options in Lyon’s front three, often playing out on the wing. She has also contributed 14 goals in 22 matches across all competitions.

While those two are leading the way statistically, you cannot speak of Lyon’s attack without mentioning Ada Hegerberg. The Norwegian star may not be the player she was just a couple of years ago just yet, but she’s not too far off, either. Hegerberg has made just 11 starts in all competitions, with seven appearances off the bench, but full 90s have been rare for her. However, during her time on the pitch, she has been lethal. Hegerberg has 11 goals and six assists, averaging a goal contribution every 57 minutes.

Delphine Cascarino will likely be the fourth player in the Lyon attack over the two legs. She may not have the stats as the others but the other three have certainly benefited from Cascarino’s ability to create from the right wing.

Other options for Lyon include Janice Cayman (four goals and four assists) and Emeleyne Laurent (two goals, three assists).

Lyon is likely to take the shape of a 4-2-3-1 with the “midfield” basically filled with attackers, but that’s what you can do when you have a bundle of options who can all play in different spots. They like to play direct and don’t need to hold too much possession of the ball to be successful. Lyon only averaged 53 percent possession in the group stage with more passes completed in the opposition’s half than its own. That comes from the urgency to get the ball up to one of those four attacking players in any position up the field and trusting them to get the job done as a unit.

Lyon’s defense is anchored by a pair of veterans who have been a huge reason for the team’s success in Europe over the years.

Wendie Renard continues to be one of the best center backs in the world. She is among the most consistent players in defense but she is also a threat in the attack, specifically on set pieces where she is nearly impossible for any player to compete with in the air. Renard has 19 career goals in the Champions League, including scoring a penalty against Juventus in 2020, helping Lyon win the competition four times in her career.

Levante UD v Lyon - UEFA Women’s Champions League Photo by Manuel Queimadelos /Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Amadine Henry has been with Renard through all of those titles, holding down the defensive midfield spot since making the move from the Portland Thorns in 2017.

Lyon’s veteran defense includes another familiar name for CONCACAF fans. Canadian Kadeisha Buchanan is only 26, but it feels like she has been playing at the top level for a decade. She joined the club back in 2016 and has made 95 appearances across all competitions for the club. Buchanan has been the main partner for Renard in the center of the defense for the last two seasons.

Of course, Lyon’s back line is not without some top-level up and coming talent of its own. Lyon uses a high line with a pair of very attacking 21-year-old fullbacks who have been major contributors in the attack.

Ellie Carpenter plays on the right side of the defense but she can be seen all over the field during any given match. Her speed and work rates are difficult to match and usually give Lyon a big advantage on counter attacks in both directions.

On the left side, Selma Bacha has basically been a forward for Lyon. She leads the team with 12 assists across all competitions and has also contributed three goals of her own.

In between the posts would normally be Christiane Endler, but she was lost to a knee injury last month. That means Sarah Bouhaddi, a mainstay of Lyon’s previous Women’s Champions League dominance, will get the start in goal.

Juventus should absolutely be happy to be in this position but it’s not going to be easy to stay alive, especially against this club in a competition Lyon has dominated for the better part of the last decade.

With the first leg being played in Turin, Juventus will need to get off to a quick start to go off to France with the chance of advancing still alive. The last time these two clubs met, Juventus actually led 2-1 in the first half of the first leg in Turin, but Lyon buried them with two late away goals before a 3-0 win in the second leg ended Juve’s European run.

This is definitely a different Juventus team from the one that lost 6-2 on aggregate in 2020, but Lyon is very similar and just as good. A defeat at home may not be the end of it all but it would certainly be disheartening and the history certainly would not be on the side of Juventus.