Familiar face threatens Bordeaux as form sides clash
By A. Scott
Gaëtan Laborde comes up against his former club on Sunday afternoon as in-form duo Montpellier Hérault SC and Girondins de Bordeaux clash at the Stade de la Mosson.
Montpellier Hérault SC - Girondins de Bordeaux
Laborde was heavily involved in a turbulent start to the season at Bordeaux, as the manner of his transfer to Montpellier in August precipitated the departure of coach Gustavo Poyet from the Matmut Atlantique dugout.
The 24-year-old left his boyhood club for just over €3 million after feeling that he was not part of Poyet's plans at the six-time champions, despite playing in their defeat against RC Strasbourg Alsace on the opening weekend of the Ligue 1 Conforama season.
Fast forward two months and Laborde has already settled in well at his new club, where he has scored twice in home wins against OGC Nice and Nîmes Olympique, and is still to taste defeat. He even won Montpellier's player of the month award for September after a fan vote.
"The fact that I was really made to feel wanted was very important for me. And last year Montpellier had a great season as well. There are a lot of things which helped me feel at ease right away," Laborde said recently when asked about his decision to move to the 2012 title-winners.
Watch: Montpellier draw at Guingamp
His arrival has coincided with a fine run of form for Michel Der Zakarian's side, who are unbeaten in the eight matches he has played since losing to Dijon FCO on the opening weekend of the campaign. They have claimed four wins and four draws in that time and went into the international break just three points behind LOSC in second spot.
In their last outing, Montpellier were held to a 1-1 draw away at EA Guingamp, despite Laborde's strike partner Andy Delort putting them ahead in Brittany. Florent Mollet was sent off for two quick-fire yellow cards, and so he will miss this weekend's game as a result, banned alongside team-mate Ambroise Oyongo.
Pablo fresh from Brazil debut
Since that encounter a number of players from both teams have been away playing for their countries, including Montpellier defender Pedro Mendes. The 28-year-old, who was born in Switzerland, made his debut for Portugal in their friendly win away to Scotland last weekend.
"I am very proud because obviously it is an award for all the work I have done down the years. I had dreamt of this since I was very little," said Mendes, and his words could have been echoed by one of his opponents this weekend.
Watch: Kamano stars as Bordeaux sink Nantes
Bordeaux centre-back Pablo, 27, made his debut for Brazil in a 2-0 friendly win against Saudi Arabia in Riyadh last week, playing 90 minutes alongside Marquinhos of Paris Saint-Germain, with the cap a reward for his form at club level in recent times.
Indeed, Pablo's performances have helped his compatriot Ricardo Gomes settle in quickly following his return to Bordeaux as general manager, 11 years after he had been coach at the club.
Bordeaux on the up
Ricardo was appointed in early September, with Éric Bedouet officially the coach, after Poyet left. He came in with Bordeaux in the bottom two and has overseen a five-game unbeaten run in the league. Les Girondins have won three and drawn two of those matches, with only leaders Paris Saint-Germain and Lille in better form in that time.
Having beaten FC Nantes 3-0 two weeks ago with François Kamano scoring twice after Yann Karamoh's marvellous opener, Bordeaux went into the international break only three points behind Montpellier in the table. Improving in the Europa League after losing their first two group games is vital, but Bordeaux are certainly on the up domestically.
"Ricardo has imposed himself through his class and his tranquility. He has kept his intellectual qualities intact. What he has gone through means he commands respect. He has developed very strong links with the players," club president Stéphane Martin told Sud Ouest of Ricardo, who has returned to the game with success after suffering two strokes in the early part of this decade.
Montpellier: Lecomte; Águilar, Mendes, Hilton (c), Congré, Cozza; Le Tallec, Sambia, Skhiri; Laborde, Delort
Bordeaux: Costil; Palencia, Koundé, Pablo, Sabaly; Lerager, Otavio, Sankharé; Karamoh, Briand, Kamano