Bordeaux confident after midweek CL win

Bordeaux confident after midweek CL win

Published Feb. 25, 2010 1:03 p.m. ET

After an encouraging start to it Champions League campaign, Bordeaux is poised to take advantage of a trip to struggling Le Mans on Sunday to increase its lead at the top of the French league.

Following a string of disappointing performances in domestic competitions since the beginning of the year, Laurent Blanc's side finally put on a convincing display on Tuesday to win 1-0 at Olympiakos in the first leg of their Round of 16 Champions League tie.

A draw on March 17 at their Chaban-Delmas stadium will be enough to reach the quarterfinals of the competition for the first time since 1988 and Bordeaux now has the opportunity to focus on defending its French league title.

While Bordeaux's European run has been impressive - with six wins in seven matches and only two goals conceded - the team recently struggled on home soil and saw its lead in the league cut to three points from a cushion of nine points at the winter break.

"We had a tough January, and February was complicated as well," said Michael Ciani, who scored Bordeaux's winner in Greece. "There is room to improve in the way we played but Bordeaux finally got going again. And we showed we have the fighting spirit."

Bordeaux has 51 points from 24 games, second-placed Montpellier has 48 and Lille is third with 47.

"Before the game at Olympiakos, I told my players that this was a wonderful occasion to become again a solid team," Blanc said. "We expected this performance for a long time. The team has shown me good things. It is encouraging for the future."

Bordeaux's strong performance at Olympiakos coincided with Yoann Gourcuff's return to form, with the France playmaker delivering the decisive free kick for Ciani, his first assist of 2010.

Bordeaux's revival is not exactly good news for Le Mans, which is 18th in the standings and features a squad decimated by injuries.

After losing four of its last six league games, Le Mans coach Arnaud Cormier is likely to be without Joao Paulo Andrade (hamstring), Almen Abdi (ankle) and Guillaume Loriot (calf) on Sunday while Cyriaque Louvion, Frederic Thomas and Fredrik Stromstad have resumed training but are also doubtful.

Paris Saint-Germain, which is 12th with 33 points, will host bitter rival Marseille in a game that has given rise to security fears. The teams' fans clashed in Marseille after the late postponement of their first encounter of the season last October. Nearly a dozen people were injured.

Marseille supporters attending the match will have to travel by special buses and the expected 1,500 fans will all be searched before setting off.

"Police forces will accompany the fans until the last toll before Paris," said Marseille police prefect Philippe Klaymann.

Back in the title race after securing four wins in its last five games, fifth-placed Marseille is in a jubilant mood although striker Mamadou Niang is nursing an Achilles injury he picked up in the 3-1 win over Nancy when he scored the first hat-trick of his career.

Montpellier will have a chance to go level on points with Bordeaux when it hosts Rennes on Saturday following a 1-0 loss at Saint-Etienne that ended a five-game winning streak last week. Lyon will play Nice at home.

In Saturday's other games, it is: Lorient vs. Sochaux; Monaco vs. Boulogne; Nancy vs. Grenoble; Toulouse vs. Lens and Valenciennes vs. Saint-Etienne.

Lille travels at Auxerre in Sunday's other match.