Bordeaux focus for Olympiacos challenge
Defender Matthieu Chalme says Bordeaux have emerged unscathed from an indifferent run of form prior to the return leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie with Olympiacos on Wednesday.
The French champions secured a precious 1-0 victory in the away leg three weeks ago but have since hit a sticky patch on the domestic front. Draws against Montpellier and Monaco and a surprise 2-1 loss at home to Auxerre have seen Bordeaux's lead at the Ligue 1 summit whittled down to goal difference, after they led by nine points at the turn of the year.
The 0-0 draw at Monaco on Sunday allowed them to preserve a slender advantage over second-placed Montpellier but they retain a game in hand and right-back Chalme insists talk of a crisis is wide of the mark. "During our bad run, no team has gone ahead of us, which is the most important thing, the only positive and, perhaps, they've missed their chance," he said.
"We're still first, still in the (Champions League) last 16, in the final of the League Cup. I see things, I read things, I hear lots of things but if this is a crisis, I can't imagine what you'd do if the team was 17th."
Bordeaux are competing in the Champions League for the first time since the 1999/2000 campaign but breezed through a difficult group featuring Bayern Munich and Juventus with five wins and a draw from six matches. The first-leg win in Greece means they are now the only unbeaten side left in the competition and coach Laurent Blanc says they have the potential to achieve something extraordinary.
"In a cup competition, and even the Champions League, a lot of things can happen," he said. "The last four teams are often the same and you can name them in advance, but there could be a surprise.
"I'm not saying Bordeaux will provide that surprise, but it could be another club. We need to savour what we've achieved so far, play with the quality we have, try to minimise our weaknesses, and, above all, play with the same desire we've shown since the beginning of this competition."
Poor domestic showing
Olympiacos, meanwhile, are looking to salvage pride from a disappointing domestic campaign. With four games of the Greek season to go Bozidar Bandovic's men are seven points behind leaders Panathinaikos and their five-year reign as national champions appears destined to come to an end.
"It is certain that the Greek championship is over for us," said captain and veteran goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, whose side warmed up for Wednesday's match with a 2-2 draw at home to lowly Giannina. Olympiacos have not reached the Champions League last eight since 1999 but Swedish international defender Olof Mellberg says they must believe in themselves at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.
"We have the ability to do something in France against Bordeaux," said the former Juventus and Aston Villa man. Bordeaux are a strong team on their home pitch and with the 1-0 win against us in the first match, it will be difficult, but anything can happen and we have seen that before in the Champions League."
Blanc's only selection dilemma revolves around who to pick in place of centre-back Marc Planus, who misses out with a knee ligament injury. Ludovic Sane, who started the first leg in midfield, is one option, but Blanc experimented in the draw at Monaco by deploying Brazilian defensive midfielder Fernando in the centre of defence.
Chalme, playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and centre forward Marouane Chamakh all started the Monaco game on the bench but they will be restored as Bordeaux revert to their patented 4-2-3-1 European formation. Argentine international midfielder Jesus Alberto Datolo was due to travel with Olympiacos after overcoming a muscle problem that had threatened his participation. The Brazilian pair of striker Diogo and midfielder Dudu, however, have both been ruled out due to injury.