Punch drunk Bordeaux hit the canvas as Lyon surge

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RESULTS Sat Apr 3 Bordeaux 1-2 Nancy, Valenciennes 1-0 Lille, Rennes 1-2 Lyon, Grenoble 1-2 Lorient, Nice 0-0 Sochaux, Saint-Etienne 2-0 Le Mans, Montpellier 0-0 Monaco Sun Apr 4 Marseille 1-0 Lens, Boulogne 1-1 Toulouse, Auxerre 1-1 PSG

It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine Bordeaux goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso being a fan of Billy Ocean let alone Boyzone.

Either way he seemed very familiar with the lines from their hit song When The Going Gets Tough at the weekend. And needless to say it wasn’t in aid of Comic Relief.

Bordeaux had just lost their third game in a row, something that hasn’t happened since 2007. A 2-1 defeat at home to Nancy knocked them off the top of Le Championnat for the first time in over three months.

They were now fourth, their lowest position all season and for Carrasso, it was definitely time for the tough to get going. “The beautiful Bordeaux is finished,” he grimaced. “Now we need to rediscover the rage.”

Stood beside him was Alou Diarra, Bordeaux’s captain and resident Alpha Male. And he wasn’t happy either. He was already getting tough.  “We deserve what we get,” he said moodily. “I don’t know if it’s physical or psychological, but we need to rapidly find a response, because, if not, we cannot hope to realise our objectives this season.”

Contrary to his players though, Laurent Blanc didn’t look the least bit surprised by his side’s worrying form.

Earlier in the week, he didn’t so much write off Bordeaux’s chances as simply play them down and try to take the pressure off his players. However, he probably dealt their morale a further blow instead.

You can’t buy experience at the supermarket

“Marseille and Lyon are two clubs who are better than us. They are two clubs who possess more quality players than Bordeaux,” Blanc insisted. “I said at the start of the season that we have adequate enough players for the Champions League. I wasn’t wrong. But you can’t buy experience at the supermarket.”

Unfortunately for him, Bordeaux can’t buy a win at the moment, and they don’t have the same amount of points as Madame Blanc on her Tesco Clubcard either.

In fact, since the winter break les Girondins have collected just 13 points from the possible 30 available, a record that would see them 14th – just four points outside of the relegation zone - if the season had started on January 17. 

Bordeaux are still only a point off the top and do have two games in hand against Le Mans and Valenciennes, but, as Diarra admitted on Saturday, les Girondins could lose to anyone at the moment.

Blanc’s assessment of Bordeaux’s squad was harsh but nonetheless entirely fair. Marc Planus’ knee injury has made it brutally apparent that Blanc lacks alternatives at the back. After all, Bordeaux very nearly conceded more goals in March than they did in the first four months of the season.

Planus’ replacement at centre-back, Ludovic Sane, is actually a holding midfielder. Aged 23, he only signed a professional contract last year.

‘Insanity’ has started just eight games in Ligue 1 this season and was found wanting in the first leg of Bordeaux’s Champions League quarter-final against Lyon last Tuesday, something that didn’t exactly go unnoticed.

Hurry up, this is the Champions League!

France’s most famous pundit, Jean-Michel Larqué, even felt compelled to shout from his TF1 commentary position: “Ludovic boy, hurry up, this is the Champions League!” Larqué had his Uzi out that night as he also repeatedly took aim at Bordeaux’s other centre-back Michaël Ciani, referring to him as “poor Michael” four times from the 57th to the 80th minute.

Ciani understandably took exception. “The majority of people watch the match on TF1 because they have no choice,” he retorted. “Larqué takes advantage of this and does what he wants. I know he wants to shoot me down. He doesn’t want me to go to the World Cup. His idea is to get it into people’s heads that I am hopeless.”

Blanc is evidently concerned, though. He brought in Henrique for Sane on Saturday and it remains to be seen whether the latter was rested for the second leg against Lyon or unceremoniously dropped.

Sunday’s edition of L’Équipe didn’t make happy reading for Bordeaux either, what with its headline proclaiming Lyon’s extraordinary resurrection.

Les Gones returned to the top of Le Championnat for the first time since October at the weekend, impressively coming from behind to beat Rennes 2-1 away from home.

Claude Puel’s team selection provided a case in point for Blanc’s argument that squad size actually matters. Puel took a significant risk in starting without Anthony Réveillère, Cris and Jérémy Toulalan, as Rennes had won their last four games on the bounce. But the gamble ultimately paid off. 

“Every game we have left is massive, and it was important that we used out strength in depth tonight,” said Puel, rubbing salt in Blanc’s wounds.

His side have made up 14 points on Bordeaux in their last 12 matches and even putting their 3-1 aggregate lead aside, Lyon perhaps deserve to be considered favourites to reach the Champions League semi-finals on form alone.

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