Kick-off: Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 20:45CET.
Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux
Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux
Girondins de Bordeaux are not only overcoming the odds in the French league following their turnaround under coach Laurent Blanc, but they are also trying to battle apathy at home and make themselves more popular in their own town.
Having not won the title for a decade, the team caused a surprise by ending Olympique Lyonnais' Ligue 1 dominance last season, claiming the crown with a hugely talented, but relatively unknown squad outside of France.
Blanc has put together a side containing players who are becoming famous while playing for Bordeaux rather than being well known before joining, and it has been that approach that has made team so successful.
Apathy does still exist, but it is not something that the club are trying to hide. President Jean-Louis Triaud explained to Haaretz, "People always ask me if the stadium will be full and I laugh. How can it be full? Even against Liverpool and Chelsea last season there were gaps in the crowd at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.
"Apparently the Champions League doesn't do it for Bordeaux fans. If they come it's to see Juventus play us. Not that they believe we'll win - they come to see [Alessandro] Del Piero. Besides, Bordeaux is a city where there's a lot to do.
"People here watch rugby, they love hunting, wine and fishing, so soccer isn't the only thing on offer in the city. What, do you think we're like Lens? Is soccer the only thing in our leisure culture?"
Whether that is a crafty wake-up call for the city to go along to the Stade Chaban-Delmas for the team's Champions League debut at home this term is unknown, but playing the slight underdog is proving to be a popular method of quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Back At The Top
Maccabi Haifa are back at Europe's top table, and while they too may have few names who are known outside of their domestic league, their return to the Champions League shows that they are beginning to become a team name who many now know.
Champions of Israel last time out, Elish Levy's side know that they face a tough task to qualify for the next stage. However, they are looking to continue to grow as a team who can impress against continental opposition.
In their opening encounter, Maccabi were beaten 3-0 by Bayern Munich at home, but many praised them for their approach and their ability against a side who many view as dark horses to win the whole tournament.
Back in Israel there might not be great expectations of a win on Wednesday, but the team's trainer is preparing to send his side out to face Bordeaux with a plan to gather three points.
"We played very well for the majority of the game and the result did not reflect our efforts," he told a press conference, thinking back to the Bayern fixture. "We created many chances and if we repeat the performance in France, and show more sharpness in front of goal, then we can beat Bordeaux."
Sep 27 H 1-0 Stade Rennais (Ligue 1)
Sep 19 A 2-0 Boulogne-Sur-Mer (Ligue 1)
Sep 15 A 1-1 Juventus (Champions League)
Sep 12 H 1-0 Grenoble Foot38 (Ligue 1)
Sep 4 H 0-0 Osasuna (Friendly)
Sep 23 H 3-1 Hapoel Petah Tikva (Toto Cup Ligat Al)
Sep 21 A 2-1 Hapoel Tel Aviv (Toto Cup Ligat Al)
Sep 15 H 0-3 Bayern Munich (Champions League)
Sep 12 H 3-1 Hapoel Ramat Gan (Ligat AI)
Aug 29 A 3-1 Hapoel Ra'anana (Ligat AI)
The hosts were given a boost in the build-up as Yoann Gourcuff recovered from a thigh injury to play in the weekend win over Rennes, but Yoan Gouffran is a doubt. Jussie is out with flu, while Fernando and Michael Ciani will also miss the match with knocks.
Probable Starting XI: Carrasso, Ciani, Planus, Tremoulinas, Chalme, Plasil, Diarra, Gourcuff, Wendel, Chamakh, Gouffran.
John Giero Kolma is available again after serving a one-match ban in European competition, while Tiago Dutra will make his debut in the Champions League having returned from a knee injury.
Probable Starting XI: Davidovitch, Masilela, Keinan, Mshumar, Teixeira, Boccoli, Culma, Golasa, Katan, Dvalishvili, Ghadir.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Marouane Chamakh was linked throughout the summer with a move away from the club, but the French club were insistent that he would not be sold on the cheap. Now that he has stayed, it will be interesting to see what he can do at the highest level.
Despite being only 17, Eyal Golasa is impressing on the domestic front for the Israeli outfit and scored again in Maccabi's win against Hapoel Tel Aviv earlier this month. Despite scoring just once last term, he already has four to his name this time around and could be the one Bordeaux must stop.
The visitors' coach maybe full of confidence, but given the strength of the reigning French champions it is difficult to see anything other than a home win. Maccabi may well look to sit back and play on the break, but once the French score their first goal the game should open up and see them win comfortably.
Girondins de Bordeaux 4-0 Maccabi Haifa
Lucas Brown, Goal.com