Bordeaux must address defensive problems

PARIS - Once the Ligue 1 champions' main strength, Girondins Bordeaux's defence has become a real concern and something they must work on if they want to retain their title.

Bordeaux, welcoming Nancy on Saturday, top the standings on goal difference and have two games in hand.

Montpellier and Auxerre, lying second and third respectively, are level with Bordeaux on 56 points but have played 30 games compared to Girondins' 28.

Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc knows, however, that his side have leaked too many goals lately, conceding three in each of their last two outings.

They first lost 3-1 to Olympique Marseille in the French League Cup final last Saturday and then by the same score at Olympique Lyon in the first leg of their all-French Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.

"It's true that we've had a problem in defence that is partly due to the fact that we've had to rely on young players who still lack experience at the top level," Blanc told reporters referring to Ludovic Sane and Michael Ciani.

Both are promising players, with Ciani even winning his first cap for France in last month's 2-0 friendly defeat by Spain, but looked shaky in central defence against Lyon and made costly mistakes.

Right-back Matthieu Chalme, who was instrumental in Bordeaux's title-winning campaign last season, has also shown signs of nerves while left back Benoit Tremoulinas loves to race forward and cross the ball, sometimes at the expense of his defensive duties.

Central defender Marc Planus has added to the team's woes by being sidelined for nearly a month with a sprained left ankle and against Lyon Blanc was also missing holding midfielder and captain Alou Diarra through suspension.

Planus is unlikely to be in Ligue action this weekend but could be back for Wednesday's return leg against Lyon.

Against Nancy, Blanc might try another combination in central defence by bringing in Brazilian Henrique. Diarra's return should also make a difference.

Bordeaux need to beat Nancy, if possible without conceding a goal, not only to hold back the teams breathing down their necks but also to boost their morale four days before hosting Lyon in the Champions League with a semi-final berth at stake.

"It's very important for us to keep our momentum in the league," Bordeaux playmaker Yoann Gourcuff told reporters. "The match against Nancy could help us restore our confidence both up front and at the back and correct our defensive mistakes."

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