x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bordeaux hope this season is not Blanc's last hurrah

Six successive victories in the Champions League and a likely quarter-final place to be sealed tonight but the coach remains tight-lipped about his future.

Blanc is the favourite to replace Raymond Domenech as coach of France after the World Cup.
Blanc is the favourite to replace Raymond Domenech as coach of France after the World Cup.

On the surface this is a special period in the history of Bordeaux, taking them back 25 years to their zenith when Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana were midfielders to marvel and the city was famous for something more than wine. When a Juventus side, featuring their compatriot Michel Platini, ended their European Cup dream in the semi-finals in 1985, Laurent Blanc was making his name as a young defender at Montpellier.

Now he is the coach of Les Girondins and suggests they can match - maybe even surpass - the past feat of Bordeaux's legendary side. Six successive victories in the Champions League have gained Europe's attention and, after their 1-0 win in Greece, the return leg against Olympiakos tonight should seal a quarter-final place. The anticipation of what lies ahead for the French champions has been tempered by the worrying prospect that this campaign could well be the final hurrah for Blanc. He is favourite to replace Raymond Domenech as the manager of France after this summer's World Cup and will be on the radar of any elite club looking for a new coach. He has also been deemed heir apparent to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Regardless of Blanc's plans, there will be a significant change on the pitch this summer. Marouane Chamakh, who has been their focus up front, has already confirmed he will leave, with the Premier League his preferred destination and Arsenal the likely home. If Blanc and Chamakh both depart it might be a struggle for Bordeaux to keep hold of playmaker Youann Gourcuff. Blanc has said he will not discuss the France link for the rest of the season, but the man known as Le President when he was an integral part of the French side that won the World Cup in 1998 and European Championship two years later, was always planning to rule at the very top.

Coaching was part of his thoughts in his final two years as a player, with United from 2001 to 2003. "I have notebooks dedicated to ideas and ways of managing that I took from my two years in Manchester, which I'm using at Bordeaux," he said. It has worked so far. Beating Juventus and Bayern Munich in the group stage highlighted the confidence and quality that should be too much for Olympiakos, who have not won an away Champions League tie since 2007.

"We need to savour what we've achieved so far, play with the quality we have, try to minimise our weaknesses, and, above all, play with the same desire we've shown since the beginning of this competition," said Blanc. "In a cup competition, and even the Champions League, a lot of things can happen. The last four teams are often the same and you can name them in advance, but there could be a surprise."

Bordeaux could be the one, although Lomana LuaLua has extra incentive to stop them. The striker has two months to show he is worthy of a new contract with Olympiakos. LuaLua returned to Greece in January after leaving in 2008 for Al Arabi in Qatar, and now feels he should never have left the club. That might be something for Blanc and others to consider when they weigh up their options. Although the Greeks need to score twice at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, Olof Mellberg, their Swedish defender, said they are a full of self belief.

"We must not succumb to fate," he said. "We can use the second leg to recover. We have to score a goal and we believe in our chances to go through." @Email:akhan@thenational.ae