Real in top form to tackle Lyons

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The Independent Football

Real Madrid will attempt to put themselves in a position to end five years of Champions League disappointment tonight when they take on Lyons in the first leg of their last-16 tie at Stade Gerland.

Madrid have failed to reach the quarter-finals of this competition since the 2003-04 campaign, since when they have been knocked out at the last-16 stage in successive years by Juventus, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Roma and, most recently, Liverpool.

It is a hugely disappointing record for the nine-times European champions, and one they will be desperate to avoid repeating this season, especially with the final being staged at their Bernabeu stadium.

Madrid could hardly have had a better weekend in preparation for their trip to Lyons, though, with almost everything going right for them.

Not only did they beat Xerez 3-0, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice on his return from suspension, but they also got a huge helping hand from local rivals Atletico, who inflicted a first league defeat of the season on Barcelona on Sunday night.

Those results mean there are just two points separating the big two at the top of La Liga and, with Barça still to go to the Bernabeu, Madrid are now in control of their own destiny.

Another plus for Manuel Pellegrini's side came with the news that the striker Karim Benzema had recovered from a groin problem more quickly than expected and he was included in a 19-man travelling squad to face his former side Lyons. The France international, who swapped his hometown club for Madrid in a big-money move last summer,said: "I'm fine, ready to play, be it from the start or for the last half-hour. "I hope that I get a good reception in Lyons and I think that I'm going to have a good match. It is a historic moment for me, it's a pleasure to return to Lyons."