The Ligue 1 title race could be as good as over if FC Girondins de Bordeaux fail to shine as they take on Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade Gerland today.
Second-placed Bordeaux are already nine points behind leaders Lyon, who also have a game in hand. Should Bordeaux lose, many believe Gérard Houllier's side will be in an insurmountable position. The visitors may claim to have no serious championship pretensions, but they go into the match on the back of seven straight wins since 4 January. Star striker Lilian Laslandes is therefore not quite ready to see the rest of the campaign as a race for the runners-up spot.
'We'll be waiting'
"Lyon are a long way ahead of us but even in such a powerful machine, a small glitch can destroy everything," said the 34-year-old. "We'll be waiting if they get into difficulty." With four defenders sidelined and Anthony Réveillère doubtful for Lyon, the stage could be set for a stumble. And with their UEFA Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven fast approaching, Lyon could have done without such a pressure game, particularly after they needed extra time to see off AC Ajaccio in the French Cup in midweek.
"I would have preferred to avoid extra time because the [Bordeaux] match will be a big battle we have to win," said former Liverpool FC manager Houllier. Bordeaux have earned a reputation for the defensive arts this season, and although they announced the departure of key centre-back Kodjo Afanou on Wednesday, new signing Beto appears an ideal replacement for the Togolese player. The ex-Sporting Clube de Portugal stopper marked his arrival with both goals in the 2-1 French Cup win against third division Entente SSG.
Coach Ricardo Gomes, who has worked wonders since replacing Michel Pavon last summer, is more concerned with the chasing pack of teams behind Bordeaux than with catching the side keeping them off top spot. "A European place would be enough for us because this team is only just coming together," he said.
However, he insisted there is more to his charges than an obdurate rearguard. "The press always talk about our defence and the fact we have won nine games 1-0 this season but I'm not worried about our attacking ability," he said. "The aim of this game is to score one more goal than your opponents, right? What makes you think that if they score several we can't score more?"