CFR 1907 Cluj hope to carry on their great start to Group A at FC Girondins de Bordeaux, with forward Yssouf Koné saying: "After the results against Roma and Chelsea we believe in our chances and we will keep on fighting."
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The CFR 1907 Cluj players were full of smiles when they arrived at a rain-soaked Stade Chaban-Delmas for their final training session before Wednesday's match against FC Girondins de Bordeaux, and the message from their two French-speaking players, Tony and Yssouf Koné, was clear: the Romanian champions have no fear.
Maurizio Trombetta's side have taken Europe by surprise, winning their first-ever UEFA Champions League game at AS Roma before holding last season's finalists Chelsea FC to a draw. They land in France as co-leaders of Group A, four points above Bordeaux, and with confidence understandably high. "Bordeaux are a big team, there's no comparison between them and us," said striker Koné. "But after the results against Roma and Chelsea we really believe in our chances and we intend to keep on fighting," added the Burkina Faso international, whose goal on Friday earned a 1-0 victory over Liga 1 leaders FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti.
Such is the international nature of the CFR squad, Tuesday's news conference was conducted in a host of different languages: from English, French and Portuguese, to Romanian and Italian. Right-back Tony was born in France and will have as many as 47 friends and family members present in the stands, although he describes himself as Portuguese having spent the majority of his career in Portugal. The 27-year-old moved to Romania from CF Estrela da Amadora almost two years ago and has enjoyed an integral role in the club's rise. "Our true strength is our togetherness," Tony explained. "Nobody knew who we were, but by playing well as a team we have succeeded in putting Cluj on the map."
While CFR can take a significant step towards qualification with another win, Laurent Blanc's men will be desperate to register their first points of a troubled campaign. Tony, though, is hoping to take advantage of point-less Bordeaux's vulnerable position, saying: "All the pressure is on Bordeaux because they can't afford to drop more points. But we're not going to worry too much about how they play because we prefer to focus on our own strengths. We beat Roma and we probably deserved to beat Chelsea. If we play to our strengths again we are capable of beating Bordeaux."
'Snapping at heels'
Tony's forthright views are often matched by his wholehearted performances, and he is fully aware of the nickname the CFR supporters have given him. "I know I'm called 'pitbull' and I'll be snapping at the heels of the Bordeaux players," he laughed, before adding more seriously: "People who watch the game might be surprised by our positive approach and the quality of our play." CFR's quality is no longer such a well-kept secret, however, and Koné offered a word of caution. "Everyone will be ready for CFR now because people have seen us play," he said. "The hardest part will be to carry on getting good results. But if we keep on battling then there's no reason why we can't get a point – or even three."