Maja, Bordeaux set sights on Strasbourg
Josh Maja will hope to get back among the goals as Girondins de Bordeaux host RC Strasbourg Alsace on Sunday aiming to maintain their push towards the top of the Ligue 1 Conforama table.
Girondins de Bordeaux - RC Strasbourg Alsace
Maja was the star in Bordeaux's last home outing at the Matmut Atlantique, netting a hat-trick in a 6-0 demolition of Nîmes Olympique, doubling his total goals tally in French football in the process. Having scored with a cheeky backheel in a draw at Stade de Reims a few days earlier, it was a clear sign that the 20-year-old is now settling into life in France and in one of Europe's leading leagues.
However, the former Sunderland striker found the going tougher last weekend - along with his teammates - as Paulo Sousa's side saw a six-game unbeaten run in all competitions come to an end in a 3-1 defeat away at a resurgent Olympique de Marseille. That result left Les Girondins in fifth place in the table, eight points off OM in second but just two points off the top three.
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Maja is Bordeaux's joint-top scorer in the league this season with five goals, level with Nicolas de Préville, and heading into this weekend only league leaders Paris Saint-Germain have scored more goals this season than Sousa's side.
"Our forwards all have different characteristics, but Josh is above all else a goalscorer," said Sousa last week. "He is a very good finisher and he doesn't need a lot of space because he has such a good shot, with both feet."
"He wants to learn, he listens, he is open, he accepts criticism and he tries to do well. In any case, for him and for everyone, scoring goals must be important."
Sousa has done a good job this season with a team that blends youth and experience, so much so that reports this week have linked him to the vacant managerial position at Arsenal, who are searching for a permanent replacement for the sacked Unai Emery.
The Portuguese coach is having to work in a difficult environment, with elements of the Bordeaux support in conflict with the club's owners, the investment fund King Street, and president, Frédéric Longuépée, over their running of the six-time French champions. That led to a lengthy interruption in their last home game, and the south end of the Matmut Atlantique will be shut for this match as a punishment.
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"Our team needs unity and the support of those who contribute to their performances: the supporters, spectators, the actors on the field, players and staff members and all those who help make Girondins de Bordeaux a great Ligue 1 club," read an official club statement this week.
Despite these issues, Bordeaux have won their last three home league games, and four in a row in all competitions. Strasbourg, though, have won on each of their last two visits here, a 2-0 triumph at the start of last season following a 3-0 victory in December 2017.
Thierry Laurey's team may be in the bottom half of the table, but they have been one of the most entertaining sides in the division in recent weeks, with a 4-2 home win over Toulouse FC last time out following a 5-0 defeat away at Stade Brestois 29. Their away record is poor, though, with just one win and only four goals scored on their travels - all of those came in a 4-0 win at Amiens SC on November 23.
The men from Alsace may put the priority here on shutting out the Bordeaux attack, and Laurey has a big decision to make when it comes to naming his centre-back pairing, with Stefan Mitrovic, Lamine Koné, Alexander Djiku and the youngster Mohamed Simakan seemingly all competing for just two places.
Bordeaux: Costil (c); Mexer, Koscielny, Pablo; Kamano, Otavio, Tchouaméni, Sabaly; Adli, Hwang; Maja
Strasbourg: Sels; Koné, Mitrovic (c), Djiku; Lala, Sissoko, Fofana, Carole; Thomasson, Corgnet; Ajorque