Alou Diarra believes FC Girondins de Bordeaux are thriving on the extra responsibility that comes with being the champions of France and hopes their new-found competitive spirit will take them far.
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Midfielder Alou Diarra believes FC Girondins de Bordeaux are thriving on the extra responsibility that comes with being French champions – and will therefore not repeat the errors of last season when they never recovered from a miserable start to the group stage.
Laurent Blanc's side were left with it all to do last year after following up an opening 4-0 defeat at Chelsea FC with a 3-1 home loss to AS Roma in their UEFA Champions League section. Although they subsequently enjoyed a maximum return from two meetings with CFR 1907 Cluj and held the Londoners at home, the damage was done.
Twelve months on, Bordeaux welcome Maccabi Haifa FC to Stade Chaban-Delmas having not only claimed their first title in a decade – and a sixth overall – but a creditable point from their Group A curtain-raiser at Juventus on 15 September. "Even if we don't know Haifa well, we respect them and know we can't underestimate them," said Diarra, the 28-year-old club captain. "After a good draw in Turin, we need three points and a strong home performance. We need a good start to increase our chances of qualifying and, in our favour, we have more experience this year."
'We hate losing'
The French international anchorman has been a mainstay of the Bordeaux revival, having missed just five Ligue 1 games since joining from Olympique Lyonnais in June 2007. He is well-placed to comment on the sense of expectation in the camp. "We're champions of France and everybody knows the responsibility this brings," he said. "We hate losing so do everything to win games. This is a new mentality – a competitive spirit has been created and the team is growing."