Jean-Louis Gasset wants his Girondins de Bordeaux side to take inspiration from Paris Saint-Germain's UEFA Champions League hero Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting as they open the 2020-21 Ligue 1 Uber Eats season against Atlantic derby rivals FC Nantes on Friday.
A bit-part player for the French champions, Choupo-Moting came off the bench with PSG trailing against Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. The Cameroon international helped his team equalise and then scored an added-time matchwinner in a fairytale finish that has eventually led PSG to Sunday's UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Bordeaux, six-time French champions, last finished in the top five in 2012 and trailed home 12th last season. They have endured a turbulent summer with Gasset appointed barely a week before the start of the new campaign following the departure of Paulo Sousa.
Pre-season results under the Portuguese coach were mixed, but Gasset took charge of an AS Saint-Étienne side struggling at the wrong end of the table in 2017, saved them from the drop and guided them to fourth place in the following season.
WATCH: See what happened when Nantes went to Bordeaux last season
Using Choupo-Moting as a more recent example of just how football fortunes can turn, Gasset, who was assistant coach to Laurent Blanc when Les Girondins won the French title in 2008-09, believes a brighter future is on the horizon.
"I think the squad was a little traumatised by these six weeks. After meeting with the players collectively and individually, I learned there was a kind of irritation with the saga that went on and on. I found the players a bit tired, but I told them that football is a bit strange and perhaps we are on the verge of an extraordinary season. That no-one could tell us what we were going to do.
"If you'd been told Choupo-Moting would be the king of Paris because he'd qualified them for the Champions League semi-finals, you wouldn't have believed it. Only football can do that. I told them they needed to focus, to work, to do more, with measured ambitions at the start. That means to get a big club back on track, and then do something very good."
Maintaining Bordeaux's excellent recent record against Nantes would be a start. Les Girondins have lost just one of the last 11 derbies, and won both games between the pair — without conceding a goal — last season.
Nantes finished a place behind Bordeaux in the COVID-19 truncated 2019-20 campaign, and the pandemic has had an impact on their preparations for the new season. The original season-opener between Olympique de Marseille and AS Saint-Etienne was postponed due to positive cases in the OM squad, and Nantes will be without Mehdi Abeid and Abdoulaye Touré, who are self-isolating.
New signing Jean-Charles Castelletto and Denis Petric, who have also tested positive in recent weeks and are yet to return to training, will also miss out as Christian Gourcuff looks to build on a promising, undefeated pre-season that concluded with a 3-1 win over second division promotion hopefuls Le Havre AC last Saturday.
"We can do better and accelerate our passing. There was movement, with Moses Simon at his best and Kader [Bamba] effective in front of goal, which made the work in midfield look all the better. Coincidence also played a part. Abdou [Touré] wasn't there, so I had to make do with what I had available," explained Gourcuff, who has Molla Wagué back from injury to travel to the south west.
"We shouldn't be ashamed of our performance, and we're not going to talk about the missing players. We can't experiment too much in a final pre-season friendly. I'm preparing a team for the start of the season."
Renaud Edmond suffered a muscle strain against Le Havre and misses out again while Anthony Limbombe will, according to Gourcuff, "be out some time" after suffering a groin muscle tear as Les Canaris go in search of a first league win in Bordeaux since October 2013.
Bordeaux: to follow
Nantes: to follow