Adam Bailey previews Les Girondins’ trip to Merseyside, in a game that will most likely all but confirm their early Europa League exit.
Only 25 days ago, when the fallen leaves of October began to freeze in the icy grip of November, the Bordeaux hierarchy called in manager Willy Sagnol for crisis talks following a miserable run of form that left Les Girondins just five points clear of Ligue 1’s relegation zone.
Almost one month on and four points from ties against 6th place Monaco and 8th place Rennes suggest that the words of President Jean Louis Tiraud have ignited a fire in the belly of a side that have underachieved so emphatically this term.
Goals from Nicolas Maurice-Belay, Cedric Yambere and Jaroslav Plašil handed Bordeaux a convincing 3-1 win against last season’s third place finishers, and Sagnol’s men showed great resolve to claw their way back against a Rennes outfit that have lost only three times this season.
Thursday’s Europa League tie against Liverpool at Anfield will perhaps present the reinvigorated Frenchmen with their most difficult task of the month, however. The power of Jürgen Klopp’s acclaimed ‘gegenpressing’ system was clear for all to see in the Red’s last Premier League fixture as they thrashed Manchester City 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho starred in the victory that announced Liverpool as genuine candidates for a Champions League place at the end of the current campaign.
A win for Liverpool would guarantee qualification from Group B, while Bordeaux require no fewer than three points to keep their dreams of a place in the last 16 of the competition alive.
Klopp’s side have only lost two of their 13 previous home fixtures against French sides and their visitors must polish their poor record of just one win from their last 11 games against English opposition to cap off a promising November.
With a place in the next round at stake, Thursday’s meeting in Merseyside could attract goals.
Sagnol will be without dangerman Wahbi Khazri as the midfielder continues to serve a suspension after being sent off in the 1-0 home loss against group leaders FC Sion. Nicolas Pallois, Thomas Touré, Pablo and Grégory Sertic make up Bordeaux’s lengthy absentee list.
However, Diego Rolan could return to the team after missing the 2-2 draw against Rennes.
Liverpool will be without key duo Coutinho (hamstring) and Mamadou Sakho (knee). Captain Jordan Henderson was pictured training with the squad yesterday afternoon as he nears full recovery from a broken foot, but is unexpected to play any part on Thursday evening.
Joe Gomez and Danny Ings are also both missing with long-term knee injuries.
With a goal and an assist in his last two games, Bordeaux will be looking towards midfielder Maurice-Belay for inspiration at Anfield. The 30-year-old unleashed an impressive strike from the edge of the box to kick-start his side’s excellent comeback against Monaco 18 days ago and fed a perfectly weighted ball into the feet of Diego Contento who netted the equaliser against Rennes on Sunday.
Roberto Firmino is beginning to find his feet on Merseyside and was influential in the dismantling of Manchester City last weekend. The Brazilian’s creativity and movement could be the key to qualification for Klopp’s men.
With such an impressive victory behind them, it’s difficult to see Liverpool not collecting the three points on Thursday.
Liverpool 3 – 1 Bordeaux