Tottenham vs. Lyon: Breaking Down Spurs' Europa League Last 32 Opponents

Thomas CooperChief Writer IVOctober 17, 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Hugo Lloris of Lyon in action during the Emirates Cup match between AC Milan and Lyon at Emirates Stadium on August 1, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur have been drawn against Ligue 1's Olympique Lyonnais in the Europa League Round of 32.

The winner will face either Inter Milan or CFR Cluj, with a potential meeting for Tottenham with the Italian giants sure to reawaken memories of their Champions League clashes in 2010-11.

For now though Andre Villas-Boas' side will focus their attentions on the continent to Lyon in what is the North London club's first meeting with a French club in European competition since beating Nantes 1-0 on aggregate (Martin Peters scoring the solitary goal) on the way to winning the 1971-72 UEFA Cup.

This will not be the first time Spurs and Lyon have met before in competitive action, with the latter getting the better of Bill Nicholson's team on away goals in the second round of the 1967-68 European Cup Winners' Cup.

The current version of the French outfit are sitting second in Ligue 1, level on points with table-topping Paris St.Germain but below them as a result of goal difference.

Despite a 1-0 loss to the Parisians last weekend, a win over Nice this Saturday going into the league's winter break will leave the seven-time champions happy about their prospects heading into the remainder of the campaign.

It has been a difficult few years for Lyon since the last of those seven consecutive titles was won in 2007-08.

They have watched their dynasty disintegrate as four different clubs have won the French championship in the seasons since their last title.

Although Lyon have remained there or thereabouts in contention for the title and European qualification, the heady days of the 2000s were looking long-gone.

The winners of last season's title, Montpellier, have given them hope in relation to their own ambitions this year though, as they too attempt to delay the inevitable money-fueled success of PSG.

In charge of those plans is Remi Garde, the former Arsenal defender who has taken the top job at Lyon after several years on the coaching staff.

Last season, Garde's first in charge, saw him and his team win the Coupe de France and, judging by Lyon's strong form in the group stage, the Europa League is relatively high on their agenda this year.

Having gone unbeaten in Group I, beating last year's finalists Athletic Bilbao twice, Lyon are undoubtedly one of the strongest teams left in the competition.

Among their standout players are Argentinian striker Lisandro Lopez, scorer of the only goal against Quevilly in last season's Coupe de France final, and one of French football's most consistent scorers of recent times.

He, along with Brazilian Michel Bastos, currently have scored five goals apiece this season, though the club's top scorer is French international Bafetimbi Gomis (with ten goals).

The forward has not developed into the level of player that may have been expected of him when he joined from Saint-Etienne in 2009, but he is a solid goalscorer and a lively presence that Spurs will have to be well alert in contending with.

Midfielder Maxime Gonalons is one of Lyon's emerging talents, while Yoann Gourcuff remains at the club, though his status as one of the great hopes of French football has diminished somewhat of late.

Of particular interest to Tottenham fans will be the return of Steed Malbranque, their former midfielder who is currently enjoying a career renaissance at Lyon.

Malbranque was part of the 2008 League Cup winning side and for two seasons at White Hart Lane was one of the most reliable, hard-working performers to be found on the pitch.

He made way when the likes of Luka Modric and David Bentley arrived later that year, and stayed three seasons at Sunderland before a short-lived spell at Saint-Etienne looked to have brought an end to his playing days.

Having spent four years with Lyon at the beginning of the last decade, Malbranque returned this past summer and has recorded six assists and two goals in 20 appearances so far.

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will get a quicker return to the Stade de Gerland than he may have anticipated, returning to his club of four years and with whom he began this campaign.

Though Brad Friedel played in Spurs' last Europa League game against Panathinaikos, Lloris will likely be desperate for the chance to prove he was right to make the move to England, as likely will his former club to show he should have stayed.

How these two clubs are faring in their respective league campaigns come February may have some say on how they approach this tie, but whatever the circumstances, this one has the makings of one of the matches of the round of 32.