Berthod's Lyon future looked to be in doubt in the summer. The French Under-21 international had lost his place in the first team to Eric Abidal, and with another left-sided defender Sylvain Monsoreau arriving from FC Sochaux Montbéliard, Berthod appeared surplus to requirements. But new coach Gérard Houllier was reluctant to let him go, and three months into the season he will not be regretting his choice.
Abidal suffered a broken foot in pre-season, and with Monsoreau taking time to settle, Berthod has made the left-back spot his own. The return to fitness of Abidal has presented Houllier with a selection dilemma, but Berthod will be hoping to swing the decision his way. "I'm delighted with the way things have gone," he told uefa.com. "Eric was unlucky with the injury and I've just tried to take my chance. We've got such a big squad that everybody is fighting to keep their place, not only me."
Berthod first signed on to the books of his hometown club aged 12, and, after making his debut in 2003, has already picked up two French championship medals. "I'm happy here and I never thought about leaving for a minute," said the 21-year-old. "There were stories in the papers but Gérard Houllier made it clear that he wanted me to stay. I'm ambitious, I want to win trophies and Lyon is as good a place as any to be for achieving that."
His chances of picking up more silverware this season already look good, with Lyon riding high at the top of Ligue 1 and on course for the UEFA Champions League knockout phase after winning their first two matches in Group F. The four-time French champions lost two of their biggest assets in the summer, as coach Paul Le Guen resigned and midfield player Michael Essien joined Chelsea FC, but Houllier has succeeded in sustaining the momentum.
'They despise losing'
"Houllier and Le Guen are both football people who know how to get the best out of their players. The other thing they have in common is that they despise losing," Berthod pointed out. Thirteen matches into the season and Lyon's players still do not know how Houllier reacts to a defeat. Berthod said: "I can imagine what he'd be like! What I appreciate with Houllier, though, is that whatever happens he tries to be positive. Even if we play badly, he singles out the good points first of all."
Berthod's development has been one major positive, and his mature performances against Real Madrid CF and Rosenborg BK suggest he has the temperament for the big stage. "There's an extra pressure in Champions League because we feel as though we're representing France," he said. "So far everything has gone well. We've won both our matches and we haven't conceded a goal."
Quarter-finalists for the past two seasons, Lyon's 3-0 win against Madrid on Matchday 1 has set expectations spiralling at the Stade Gerland. "It's one of the best memories of my career," Berthod said of the match. "I was up against David Beckham and he gave me a really tough evening. I knew about the quality of his passing and his crosses but I was impressed by the way he fought for everything. He's a real competitor." Berthod is a competitor too and after keeping the England captain quiet, he'll be keen to impress Houllier again this evening.
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