Laughter rang around the CFR Stadium as a confident Maurizio Trombetta put his CFR 1907 Cluj charges through a relaxed training session ahead of Tuesday evening's crucial Group A meeting with FC Girondins de Bordeaux.
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Laughter rang around the CFR Stadium as Maurizio Trombetta put his CFR 1907 Cluj side through a relaxed training session before Tuesday's crucial Group A meeting with FC Girondins de Bordeaux.
CFR lost 1-0 to the Ligue 1 team a fortnight ago, but the knockout phase still looms large for the UEFA Champions League debutants and morale is high as the Romanian champions prepare for the return match. "It's an important game and we're confident," Trombetta said, his side having been buoyed by Friday's 1-0 league win against AFC Unirea Urziceni which ended a run of two defeats. "It's a decisive match, like all the rest, but there is only a point between us and Bordeaux so it is even more important."
Indeed, just one point separates second-placed CFR from both AS Roma and Bordeaux. After the team from Transylvania beat Roma and then held section leaders Chelsea FC, the Matchday 3 defeat in Bordeaux was CFR's first setback at this level. With so much at stake, and with games against Roma and Chelsea to come, Trombetta is grateful for the chance to make quick amends. Cadú's own goal was the difference between the sides in France and the Italian coach anticipates another tight encounter. "We have to play to our maximum to win," he said. "Bordeaux will play the same here as they did in the away leg, very fast in attack and dangerous on the counter. But we're at home and have to dominate. We've had one more day's rest than them and that could be an advantage for us."
Both Trombetta and his opposite number Laurent Blanc are forced into changes from the teams fielded at the Stade Chaban-Delmas on 22 October. Trombetta will be without strikers Didi, who injured his left knee against Unirea, and Diego Ruiz as CFR look for their first European goal since the Matchday 1 success in the Italian capital. Midfielder Eugen Trică is suspended after being sent off in Bordeaux and should be replaced by Dani, with Ciprian Deac an option up front. For Bordeaux, Matthieu Valverde takes over from Ulrich Ramé after the veteran goalkeeper suffered the recurrence of a groin injury in Saturday's 1-0 loss at AS Nancy-Lorraine. Blanc's main concern is the fitness of central midfielder Fernando who is struggling with a back problem, yet is expected to start.
Bordeaux are aiming to reach the knockout stage for the first time in three attempts, and for Blanc there is little margin for error. "A draw won't help our cause hugely but it wouldn't eliminate us 100 per cent either," he said. "A victory would put us in a comfortable position, even if it will still be very difficult. Cluj, though, must win – they are playing for qualification in this game. To have a hope of progress we needed positive results against Cluj – we got one at home, now we must do the same in Cluj. They are well-organised and it is up to us not to fall into their trap, by opening up and giving them too much space, because that is what they are looking for."