Girondins de Bordeaux moved through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday evening in somewhat uncertain form, edging past Olympiacos 2-1. After battling through a distinctly difficult evening, les Girondins will hope that the victory can act as a spur for them to kick on in the league, as their challenge has stuttered over the past fortnight.
Arguably the negative turning point for Laurent Blanc’s men was their 1-1 draw with Montpellier. Bordeaux were expected to claim three points to push significantly clear of the second placed side, but after having Michael Ciani dismissed and surviving two penalties, the hosts contrived to concede in the final minute.
That performance seemed to plant a seed of self-doubt in the champions, and that was reflected in their showing the following midweek against Auxerre. Though they started positively, the Aquitaine club succumbed to their guests in the second half, deservedly going down 2-1.
By the time an awkward trip to Monaco came about on Saturday, Blanc’s thoughts had already turned towards Olympiacos, rotating his side heavily. He would still have been disappointed with the insipid performance his fringe men gave him as they stuttered to an unconvincing 0-0 draw.
The next few weeks promise to be huge for Bordeaux. Drawn against fellow Championnat club Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League, they also face les Gones in the league next month, as well as the Coupe de la Ligue final against Olympique de Marseille a week on Sunday. Victory over LOSC would provide les Girondins with the ideal springboard going into such an important series of games.
Lille’s season promised a great deal around Christmas time, but Rudi Garcia’s side have yet to really push on and recapture that form in recent times. A brilliant scoring streak saw them register at least three goals in every league game they played from November through to mid-January.
During that period, les Dogues won seven straight league encounters, but since then, their season has been hurt by injuries. Top scorer Gervinho has been ruled out for a month already and is poised to miss a further fortnight, an injury that just happened to coincide with the club’s busiest spell of the season, leaving short on cover in attack as Tulio de Melo has been beset by problems.
The defence, which is the area of the side with the least depth to it, has also had its share of issues, with Nicolas Plestan suffering a relapse of his long-standing adductor issues and Ricardo Costa unable to play in Europe having featured for Wolfsburg. Ultimately, these problems have cost the Nord side several points.
LOSC benefitted from the spate of draws registered by the top five last weekend, and have managed to cling on in the title race due to the inability of their main rivals to string together a run of positive results. A 1-0 victory over Grenoble last weekend was not especially impressive, but it’s enough to keep Lille, a side capable of beating any rival over 90 minutes, in with a shout of the title.
Marc Planus is out with injury and Abdou Traore is still struggling, but les Girondins will otherwise have a full squad to select from. Rotation will be dependent on how Laurent Blanc feels his squad are physically, and a free midweek should mean that a strong outfit can be deployed.
Probable Starting XI: Carrasso; Chalme, Sane, Ciani, Tremoulinas; Diarra; Plasil, Gourcuff, Fernando, Wendel; Chamakh
Injuries have played havoc with LOSC’s side. Gervinho and Mathieu Debuchy are still a couple of weeks away from first team action, while Tulio de Melo and Nicolas Plestan continue to have their seasons decimated by injury. Ricardo Costa continues to sit out too, though he should return next week.
Rudi Garcia won’t want to rotate his squad too much, but that depends on the fitness of his first XI.
Probable Starting XI: Landreau; Beria, Rami, Chedjou, Emerson; Cabaye, Mavuba, Balmont; Obraniak, Frau, Hazard
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Yoann Gourcuff sparkled in midweek against Olympiacos and will again be the man who les Girondins look to as their creative ace. At times this season the playmaker has failed to live up to his huge billing, but if he can hit the kind of form he managed in midweek regularly, the Aquitaine side will prove tough to stop.
Les Dogues are widely regarded to have the best midfield in France, with great balance in that particular area of their side. Bordeaux reportedly courted Yohan Cabaye last summer, and the dynamic central player actually put the champions to the sword earlier this season, scoring in LOSC’s 2-0 victory in the north of France earlier this term. His influence will be vital on Sunday.
These sides suffered contrasting emotions in their midweek European games, with Bordeaux pushing on in the Champions League and Lille crashing out of the Europa League. Les Girondins have greater depth in their side and should be the fresher. Additionally, the champions enjoy a strong home record, whereas LOSC are far from convincing on the road.
Girondins de Bordeaux 2-1 Lille