PARIS (AP) – Lyon's frail defense may need to take a leaf out of APOEL Nicosia's book when the two sides meet in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.
Lyon has not kept a clean sheet in its last five matches in all competitions, losing 2-1 at home to lowly Caen in the French league on Saturday.
By contrast, APOEL's strength at the back helped it become the first Cypriot team to reach the knockout phase after finishing ahead of Zenit St. Petersburg, FC Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage.
''Everyone expects us to go through, but let's not put the cart before the horse,'' Lyon coach Remi Garde said. ''It's a team which is tough to outmaneuver and defends well.''
However, experience is on Lyon's side in Tuesday's first leg as it has reached this stage for the ninth straight season.
Lyon will miss Croatia defender Dejan Lovren, who is recovering from an Achilles injury.
Teenager Samuel Umtiti and Brazilian veteran Cris have deputized at center back, but their performances have not really helped a Lyon defense which is the eighth most porous in the French league.
''We're aware that we concede too many goals,'' Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said. ''That makes our matches more complicated because we then have to score two or three goals.''
On top of a difficult team selection, Lyon has a congested schedule to deal with as it is still in contention in four competitions - the Champions League, the French league, the French Cup and the League Cup.
APOEL hopes to capitalize on Lyon's problems at the back to prove its spot in the last 16 is no fluke.
''It's a great opportunity for us to continue to show the whole world what we can do,'' APOEL striker Ailton Almeida said. ''I hope that we can go there and get a good result.''
APOEL earned three draws out of its three away matches in the group stage.
While APOEL can rely on a tight defense, it has been struggling to score goals.
''Scoring is one of our problems, but that depends on how the team plays,'' APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said. ''There were matches in which we weren't aggressive, there were others where we had chances but didn't score.''
APOEL will rely on Ailton to crack the Lyon defense.
The Brazilian striker scored three goals in the group stage and helped set up both goals by captain Constantinos Charalambides in APOEL's 2-1 win over Ethnikos Achnas in the Cypriot league Friday.
''We will have to be very cautious,'' Lyon midfielder Honorato Ederson said, ''because this team topped its group and that means it has qualities.''
Lyon miraculously qualified for the knockout phase by overtaking Ajax on goal difference with a 7-1 rout of Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia.
''We concede goals but we're also able to score a lot too,'' Garde said. ''The balance is sometimes tough to find.''
Associated Press writer Menelaos Hadjicostis contributed to this report from Nicosia, Cyprus.