Real seeks place in knockouts

Real seeks place in knockouts

PARIS - The Associated Press
Real seeks place in knockouts

Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain (R) and teammate Lassana Diarra (L) run for the ball in the game against Real Sociedad.

Real Madrid can secure a place in the knockout stage of the Champions League with a victory at Lyon on Wednesday.

The 2002 champion tops Group D with nine points, five clear of Ajax Amsterdam and Lyon. Dinamo Zagreb is in last place without a point.

Madrid routed Lyon 4-0 last month and hopes to repeat the feat when they meet for the 10th time in Europe’s top competition.

The Spanish league leader will be looking to continue its impressive run of form. Madrid has won its last eight matches in all competitions, including six clean sheets, and is the only team that has yet to concede a goal in the group stage of the Champions League.

Lyon used to create a lot of problems for Madrid, winning three and drawing four of their first seven matches. But the momentum has swung in Madrid’s favor lately.

Madrid beat Lyon by a wide margin in their last two encounters. Besides the 4-0 rout two weeks ago, Madrid also thrashed Lyon 3-0 last season.

Yet, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho won’t underestimate the French club.

Lyon is “many things, but not an easy side, and they defeated Real Madrid in recent seasons,” Mourinho said. “I don’t think we have an easy group. We’re doing our job very well, and that’s why we have nine points.” In four home games against Madrid, Lyon is still undefeated with three wins and a draw.

“They are much stronger at home and play with better confidence and more aggressively,” Madrid midfielder Mesut Oezil said. “Our advantage is how we handle the ball and our individual talent (...) We want to score a lot of goals and come back with three points.” Madrid will rely on Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain to crack the Lyon defense. They have scored 10 goals each in the Spanish league.

Madrid will be without centerback Ricardo Carvalho, who is nursing a back injury. Fullback Alvaro Arbeloa and midfielder Kaka are doubtful after picking up knocks in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Real Sociedad.

Meanwhile, Lyon wants at least a point from the game, hoping to prove the 4-0 loss was just a one-off.

“I don’t think the gulf is as wide as it seemed over there,” Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis told the UEFA website. “So now it’s up to us to show our pride and belief.

“I don’t think it was a decisive game, it hasn’t jeopardized our chances of qualifying. Now we need to be competitive and try and get at least one point, in order to keep on moving toward qualification.” Ten-man Lyon beat Saint-Etienne 2-0 Saturday to climb to fourth place in the French league.

Lyon will miss through injury Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez (ankle), Brazilian winger Michel Bastos (hamstring), playmaker Clement Grenier (thigh), forward Jeremy Pied (ankle) and back-up goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre (Achilles tendon).

Fullback Aly Cissokho is doubtful after straining his hamstring against Saint-Etienne.

In the other Group D match, Ajax hosts Dinamo. The Dutch side won 2-0 in Zagreb two weeks ago.

Ajax is in fifth place in the Dutch league after beating Roda 4-0 last weekend. Dinamo tops the Croatian league with a seven-point lead over Hajduk Split. But it is struggling in the Champions League as Dinamo and Genk are the only teams that have yet to score in the group stage.