Gérard Houllier and Eric Abidal faced up to the journalists for the traditional pre-match press conferences…
Your aim is certainly to win a tenth match of the season, a win that would almost guarantee your qualification for the knock-out phase of the competition...
The objective of every team before a match is to do everything to win, but we’re up against a team that is actually a lot better than their two previous Champions League matches would suggest. They could even have got a result against Real Madrid because they created a lot of chances before the Spaniards scored. They’re a team that are certainly playing their last card for the qualification. So we’re ready for a big match, at the one time passionate and exciting. Our aim is to step closer to qualifying.
What is, in your opinion, the most important match this week?
The most important match of the week is always the next one. After Kiev it will be the weekend’s game and after that it will be the Coupe de la Ligue game in midweek. I give equal importance to each and every match and the players have the same attitude. Perhaps that is why we have have had such good results. We don’t write off any competition.
Will you line-up a similar starting XI to your two previous Champions League games?
That’s a good question, asking if I’ll give you some idea of my players for tomorrow. With all the politeness that becomes Olympique Lyonnais I will say: ‘You’ll see tomorrow.’
Is the fact that the Ukrainians have conceded so many goals a sign of their weaknesses, or do you find that surprising?
I don’t watch the matches like that at all. I don’t judge a team in terms of its weaknesses, more its general style of play that we have to adapt to. The aim is always to pose problems for our opponents and solve the problems that they pose us. That’s football. I don’t draw conclusions from previous matches. That’s why we approached the game against Steaua with the right attitude. If you do the opposite you are guaranteed to either under, or over-estimate your opponents.
Eric, if you win, you are almost guaranteed of qualifying. Is that what your thinking about?
More or less... But the coach has reminded us that we need 11 points to be sure of going through. We want to qualify as quickly as possible and that means getting a good result tomorrow.
Are you of the same opinion as your coach in thinking that this Kiev side is better than their continental results suggest?
They have created a lot of goal scoring chances in their last two games, they just haven’t putt hem away. That has cost them dearly because then they’ve conceded goals. They are team that is hard to play against with an attack that moves very quickly. Their defence is a little slower. We have to take advantage of that. Despite the difficulty of the match that awaits, we are obliged to play well.
They give the impression that they drop their heads a little when they concede a goal. What do you think?
They’re going through a rough patch whereas we are in form. We have to take advantage of that and try and score in the opening five minutes to putt hem on the back foot. We have to impose our rhythm and tire them out.
The weather is against you because it’s cold and wet. Are you worried about this?
The players are used to playing in all types of conditions. Today I’m in shorts, even if it’s very cold. But we will have to be prepared for the difficult conditions that we’re not used to.
Do you know much about Ukrainian football?
We don’t watch much Ukrainain league football, but we know they’re in the Champions League and they are a good team.
Alou Diarra went to the press expressing his frustration at not playing. What do you think about that?
I don’t read the papers. He must be disappointed because he’s not playing a lot, but it’s not easy to play for Lyon. We have a big squad with lots of quality players. Not everyone can play, there are only 11 players on the pitch. This season we’re lucky to have even more players on the bench. I can understand that he’s frustrated, but every player will get their chance. Competition is good for the team because it forces everyone to improve and be at their best. Alou has always played well when he’s played. We know we can depend on him until the end of the season.
For Dynamo Kiev, Anatoli Demianenko (coach) also fronted up to the press:
Are you still hoping to qualify?
We know that this game will be crucial for our hopes of going any further in this competition. We are all too well aware. We have to everything to battle Lyon and register our first win in this competition.
What have you deduced from you opening two games?
In our first two games against Steaua and Real Madrid, we really struggled psychologically. After qualifying for the group phase, certain players imagined that the job had been done. They relaxed after our good performance in the preliminary round. For some, they had reached their goal and took their foot of the gas. That’s where we’ve struggled. Now we’re beyond all that. The atmosphere within the squad is very good and the team has rediscovered its mental strength.
Do you have any injury worries?