Saturday’s basement battle between Sochaux and Brest could see les Lionceaux pull level with SB29 as the race to beat the drop could thicken considerably depending on results this weekend. Currently sat in 19th place, FCSM can move out of the drop zone this weekend if they can beat a struggling Brest outfit who have not won in their last four games. Eric Hély’s men will be confident that they can still retain their Ligue 1 status despite crashing back down to earth last weekend with a 2-1 defeat at Lyon after consecutive victories over Evian and Nice had given the club hope of pulling off a great escape that had looked unlikely under Mehmed Baždarević.
The game itself will be intriguing not least because Édouard Butin, Sochaux’s match winner in recent weeks has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with after a nasty clash with Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris left the 23-year old needing cruciate knee ligament surgery and facing a six-month layoff. In the six-goal striker’s absence, the goal scoring burden will be passed on to one of last season’s heroes Modibo Maïga who currently has five goals to his name already this campaign but has been in and out of the side through injury and ill-discipline and has struggled to look capable of bringing himself to continue playing for a club that he clearly wants to leave.
Scorer of 15 goals as well as laying on two assists last year, Maïga has been a ghost of himself this campaign and a failed move to Newcastle United on two occasions has compounded a disrupting period for Sochaux as they have struggled to keep their key players at the Stade Auguste Bonal. The situation now leaves les Lionceaux needing their temperamental Malian hit man to step up his game given that he has scored as many goals as the entire club’s other striking options put together have mustered all season. Sloan Privat, Cédric Bakambu and Charlie Davies have only managed five collective goals this season and the American international has yet to impress the club’s hierarchy since returning from a loan spell with DC United last year.
It is generally accepted that Maïga will be seeking pastures new come the end of this term but now is surely the time for him to be stepping up to the plate for his club and putting himself in the shop window with a string of impressive displays that save his club from relegation. Too many of FCSM’s stars have shied away from the light this season as the team have struggled in the wake of Francis Gillot’s departure with Marvin Martin and Ryad Boudebouz struggling to help keep les Lionceaux’s heads above water. Now with Hély forced to turn to Maiga, the Malian will have to deliver and in doing so justify the interest that has surrounded him since last season.
Brest on the other hand have been in rotten form since shocking Marseille with a 1-0 victory in Normandy in Week 25. Three defeats and a draw since have seen the club plummet to 16th place in the table and with a tough set of fixtures remaining; they need to take something from this game to avoid a crisis setting in ahead of the final weeks of the season.
Like Sochaux, Brest have struggled up front but whilst les Lionceaux have 29 goals to their name SB29 only have 23 and four of those were scored by Nolan Roux who has now departed and has since scored four goals in the eight games he has played for new club Lille. The problem it seems for Alex Dupont’s men has been an over-dependency on their big names and with Roux now gone, that burden falls squarely on the shoulders of Bruno Grougi. With six goals scored this season he is the team’s highest contributor but after that Eden Ben Basat has four and is his closest challenger.
With a lack of presence up front and new signings Issam Jemâa and Alexandre Alphonse either spending too much time suspended or struggling to make an impact since arriving, the team have failed to demonstrate the necessary cutting edge needed for most of the season. Mario Lička is normally good for chipping in with an important goal or two but he appears to have run dry too meaning that unless Dupont’s men can find a way of easing the burden on Grougi, the club could find themselves back in Ligue 2 next season.
As much as I would like to say I can see this game being full of goals and proving the stats wrong, I think it will be a tight but entertaining affair and that Sochaux will edge the game through home advantage and a greater sense of urgency. Brest don’t travel particularly well and les Lionceaux will sense a real chance to make up some ground in the battle for survival.
My Verdict: 2-1 to Sochaux and a much-needed win to boost the confidence at Stade Bonal and to plunge Brest into crisis.