Perrin: United style will give Lyon chance

February 19, 2008

LYON, February 19 (Champions League) - Lyon coach Alain Perrin believes the open style of football practised by English clubs gives his side a great chance of causing an upset against Manchester United in the Champions League last 16.

Perrin knows about the Premier League thanks to his short stint as manager of Portsmouth between April and November 2005.

His eight months at Fratton Park may have been seen by many as a failure - his overall record reads just four wins from 21 games in charge of Pompey - but they gave him an insight into life in the blood-and-thunder English top flight.

And ahead of Wednesday's last-16 first leg at the Stade Gerland, Perrin is confident his team will be afforded opportunities to trouble United, who are currently in second place in the Premier League.

'We can rightly compare this to a tennis match between the second-ranked player in the world and the 15th-ranked player,' he said.

'In 10 matches, we would lose six or seven of them. But we would win the others.

'And English football always gives an opponent the hope of succeeding. The game is less padlocked than in Italy, for example, and you get the feeling you can achieve something against them.

'But you always return to the same old axiom: there are exceptional players that make the difference. Cristiano Ronaldo is on fire at the moment, and (Wayne) Rooney is really strong.'

After being sacked by Portsmouth, Perrin had six months out of football before taking up the coaching post at Ligue 1 side Sochaux.

His managerial integrity returned in the year he spent at the small Montbeliard club, who he guided into Europe after winning the Coupe de France.

He was appointed coach of Lyon, the reigning six-time French champions, last summer and Les Gones have reached the knockout stages of Champions League and currently sit atop the Ligue 1 standings.

But a 1-0 loss to Le Mans on Saturday meant they are just one point above second-placed Bordeaux, and Perrin is rumoured to have had frank talks with club president Jean-Michel Aulas after the lacklustre defeat.

Perrin's credentials have also been questioned following Les Gones' sluggish start to 2008 but he does not see himself suddenly having come under pressure.

'There isn't any concern - I know the group has the necessary resources and the means to react,' he said.

'I haven't just suddenly discovered this pressure - it is with me each match. I know about the fragility linked with football.

'And there is always this pressure at Lyon. I am hardened to it and I am strong enough mentally not to be destabilised by all this.

'Pressure comes from within. The only pressure comes from my desire to succeed.'

There is no doubt all is not right in the Lyon squad, with even Perrin admitting 'the team is drifting at the moment'.

Injuries to players like centre-back Cris, goalkeeper Gregory Coupet and striker Fred has meant Perrin has often been without key performers in the spine of his team this season.

It is the closest title race in Ligue 1 for a number of years, while Lyon have the psychological barrier to climb of knowing they have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Perrin is confident his underdogs will give it a good shot against United over the two legs.

'We know we are not favourites,' he said.

'But that is going to allow us to play with a certain calmness, in the hope of causing an upset.'

Perrin will be boosted by the return to the squad of Cris, the Brazilian ball-playing defender who has been out of action since August with a knee injury.

'It is good news for everyone,' added Perrin, who is unlikely to play the club captain from the start.