Coupe de France: Round Nine – Preview

January 4, 2013 7:47 am

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This weekend the Coupe de France reaches its ninth round, the round in which the “big boys” join the party; they all start as favourites in their respective matches but any one of the 20 Ligue 1 sides could easily suffer from the magic of the cup. Over three days 64 teams will be reduced to 32 and there will more than likely be a few upsets along the way. Put the kettle on and dive into 20 games that we have previewed for you.

Saturday 5th January

US BOULOGNE v TOULOUSE FC by @AGibneyftbl
17:00 Kick-Off: Stade de la Libération 

The last twelve months haven’t exactly gone the way Boulogne would have wanted. Relegated to the third division after a terrible season in Ligue 2 and now after 17 games in the Championnat National they sit in the relegation zone. All is not doom and gloom however, as wins over Vitry and Drancy have sparked the start of a cup run, but up against Toulouse they will need some magic to keep that going.

Toulouse will start strong favourites but there are a few players in the USCBO squad who could provide that spark of magic. Toulouse star Etienne Capoue will come face to face with his brother Aurelien, the former Nantes midfield who has stuck with the northern side and is one of their more experienced players. He will relish the battle with his brother and should be interesting to watch.

On loan from Marseille, Chris Gadi will be determined to make a name for himself against Le Téfécé. The exciting winger featured a few times for l’OM in Ligue 1 but a lack of playing time has seen his progress halted. Now with the chance to shine he will provide a dangerous test for the away side’s full backs. After 11 starts this season he has found the net four times, now the question is if he can perform at a higher level.

Another interesting player to watch is striker Jonathan Téhoué. The former Leyton Orient and Swindon striker has scored five goals in only 370 minutes for Boulogne. You may recognise the name from when he scored the equaliser against Arsenal for Orient in the FA Cup back in 2011. Is the stage set for another fairytale strike?

Result: Boulogne 0 – 1 Toulouse (Riviere, 59e.) 

AMIENS AC v EVIAN TG by @Philby1976
17:00 Kick-Off: Stade de la Licorne 

Fourth-tier Athlétic Club Amiens were only founded in 1977 and this is their first time staying in the Cup after Christmas. They did so beating three Division d’Honneur sides, all away from home, before welcoming Racing Colombes of CFA2 in the last round.  They largely dominated that match, showing enterprise on the break and also decent dead-ball delivery, and while they only won 1-0, the goal from midfielder Maurice Sankharé was a beauty; he chipped the ball over a defender while turning, before volleying into the net – the move starts at 3 minutes in here (note: ACA usually play in blue, but are here playing in red, presumably as their opponents had no change strip).  They made several more good chances, but rode their luck a little – Colombes had a man sent off, and then a goal disallowed for offside, before spurning a golden chance to equalise by shanking a volley into the carpark with the goal gaping. ACA also had a man sent off late on after what can best be described as a poor refereeing decision.

After the match, captain Chouaib Sagouti was cheerfully wishing for PSG as their next opponents, but manager Azouz Hamdane stressed that any match at this stage in the competition would be “very, very difficult”.  With Evian currently lying 17th in Ligue 1, shipping goals (32) and with a poor conversion rate, this will of course be difficult but one ‘very’ could reasonably be removed; a small flutter on both teams to score would seem appropriate.  ACA will be hosting the match at Stade de la Licorne, home of local rivals Amiens SC (National – knocked out in the 6th round), to see if they can write another new page in their short history.

Result: Amiens 1 – 1 Evian (a.e.t) – Evian win 5 – 3 on penalties
The Ligue 1 side got 
an injury time equaliser through Cedric Cambon, Amiens having held on for 80 minutes after Keita scored in the 13th minute. Hope you had that small flutter on. 

CHAURAY v FC LORIENT by @meatmansoccer
17:00 Kick-Off: Stade Rene Gaillard

Chauray, a 5th-tier side from the Pays de la Loire region, welcome Lorient this weekend and everyone is really excited about the upcoming Coupe de France tie. The home minnows have had to win 5 matches to reach this stage of the competition and are considered strong underdogs facing Ligue 1 opposition. They currently reside in CFA2 Group G and are midtable with a 3-4-4 win-draw-loss record.

For Chauray, this is a massive match and will arguably be the highlight of their season (presuming this is as far as they get!). At least for Lorient, this won’t be the longest trip they have to make. Geographically, both sides are situated in the north west of France, so thankfully for Christian Gourcuff the Ligue 1 outfit don’t have to travel to the ‘middle of nowhere’

The match will be played on neutral territory at Niort’s Stade Rene Gaillard, which is a Ligue 2 standard ground. This will also suit Lorient although there will no doubt still be a partisan home atmosphere. Chauray isn’t situated far away from Niort so there should be a decent crowd.

Lorient have a long list of absences for this match; Audard, Lelan, Mareque, Lautoa, Corgnet, Romao and Traore will all miss out, in addition to the longer term absentees Ecuele Manga and Coutadeur. Whether or not Chauray can take advantage of these Lorient absences remains to be seen, but they will throw the kitchen sink at them here and hope to produce a famous Coupe de France giant-killing.

Result: Chauray 1 – 5 Lorient
Chauray got a 90th-minute consolation goal (El Brami) after Lorient ran riot with goals for Bourillon, Autret and Aliadiere, and a brace for Quercia

THAON v SOCHAUX by @jeremysmith98
17:00 Kick-Off: Stade Robert Sayer

On Saturday, Ligue 1 strugglers Sochaux will hope to put their league difficulties behind them when they take on CFA2 side ES Thaon in the Coupe de France.

Sochaux have a good cup pedigree to fall back on, having finished as runners-up three times and won the trophy twice, the second time as recently as 2007, and the club will be hoping that a good cup run will trigger some much-needed league form, with the team winless in seven matches.

Any Lionceaux fans looking for reassurance ahead of the clash will take solace in the fact that their lowly opponents, based in the woody  Vosges region of eastern France, are having league struggles of their own, lying 10th in Group C of France’s fifth tier, only one place above the relegation zone.

However, the match will be far from a formality. Thaon have come through seven rounds already, five of them played away from home, the most recent of which was a 3-2 win at Haguenau with two goals from Duminy and one from Poirot in an Hercule-an effort (my office, now – ed.), which shows that the team has some fight in them. Also, the team in blue will have a crucial home advantage in this match, as their Stade Robert Sayer, which holds around 2,500, satisfies the FFF’s standards to host the match.

Thaon have reached this stage of the Coupe only once before, losing 4-0 to Marseille in 2001. However, at that stage Marseille were stronger than Sochaux, Thaon were ranked lower than they presently are, and the match was played on a neutral ground. As manager Farid Touileb observes, “we’re not putting ourselves under too much pressure. We know that we have a 5% chance of winning – maybe 10% if we work our arses off!”

Result: Thaon 0 – 1 Sochaux
A close one – Thaon held on until the 78th minute, when Privat finally saved Sochaux’s blushes

MONTCEAU v TROYES by @meatmansoccer
17:00 Kick-Off: Stade des Alouettes

Montceau welcome Troyes to Le Stade des Alouettes this Saturday where they will hope to spring a surprise. The Burgundy club, who currently reside in CFA Group B (4th tier), have already had to win 4 matches just to get to this stage. This will be the first time they face opposition of a higher classification though, so will be a much harder test.

Montceau currently sit 11th out of 18 in CFA B, with a fairly mediocre 4-4-6 win-draw-loss record. On paper, it looks as if Troyes should have a fairly easy afternoon but the Coupe de France is renowned for its shocks and surprises. Montceau themselves have a bit of ‘previous’ in this competition when they sensationally made the semi-finals back in 2007. Six years later, they will hope to go on a similar run and they are no strangers to knocking out Ligue 1 opposition. Both Lens and Bordeaux were victims when Montceau made the semi-finals, and it took the eventual winners Sochaux to knock them out.

They have only netted 14 goals in their 14 ligue games, so are hardly the most prolific scorers around. Their leading marksman is striker Serge Bando Ngambe (4 goals) so he’s potentially worth watching out for. Their most famous player is arguably centre back Florian Boucansaud who has played a combined total of 179 Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 games in his career. However, he last played at that level 3-4 years ago and has since languished down at the amateur level with Montceau. For him, this will be a special occasion because one of his former clubs was Troyes.

For the Ligue 1 visitors, coach Jean Marc Furlan has announced that he will play ‘the strongest team available to him’, saying he wants the best possible preparation for the upcoming Ligue 1 match against Lyon next week. However, despite this claim, it would be understandable if he started some of the fringe players and therefore a slightly weaker XI. Tony Chapron will be the referee for this encounter and it should be an interesting Coupe de France fixture with certainly every chance of a surprise.

Result: Montceau 0 – 1 Troyes (Camus, 49e.)

FC DROUAIS DREUX v AS NANCY by @J_Ervine
17:00 Kick-Off: Stade du Vieux-Pré 

With Nancy on a poor run of form and bottom of Ligue 1, some might see Jean Fernandez’s team as the sort of club that could fall prey to lower league opposition away from home in the Coupe de France.  On Saturday evening, they travel to face FC Drouais of the Division d’Honneur (five divisions below Ligue 1).

FC Drouais, from the town of Dreux (50 miles west of Paris), have eliminated three higher division teams to reach this round by beating Évry Essonne (CFA2) and Viry-Châtillon (CFA) on penalties in the last two rounds, and also winning 3-1 against Avoine (CFA2) at the regional stage. FC Drouais, for whom Patrick Vieira played in his early teens, are present at this stage of the Coupe de France for the first time ever.

Their cup exploits are all the more surprising given that FC Drouais are only eighth out of fourteen teams in their section of the Division d’Honneur. Having turned down the option of playing the tie in Nancy and being allowed to pocket all the gate receipts from the game, FC Drouais will instead be watched by a capacity crowd of 2,650 at the Stade du Vieux-Pré in Dreux. There was much debate concerning the ideal venue for the tie before the ground received FFF approval just before Christmas.

If the home team are to prevail they will have to do so without midfielder Badr El Yaagoubi, who was sent off at Orléans in FC Drouais’ last game before Christmas. The game against Nancy has led to a frenzy of local and national media interest. TF1 are preparing a report on the team managed by Patrice Colas for Téléfoot and several FC Drouais players and officials will give their thoughts on the game in this Friday’s France Football magazine.

Result: Dreux 1 – 5 Nancy
Nancy went 4-0 up in about half an hour, with two for Moukandjo, Bakar and Ayasse also weighing in – Tabate got one back for Dreux but Alo’o Efoulou topped things off with an injury-time fifth.

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PLABENNEC v STADE de REIMS by @Philby1976
18:00 Kick-Off: Stade de Kervéguen

Fourth-tier Breton side Stade Plabennecois Football are one of those sides who, in Cup terms, have been here before – they have got through to the post-Christmas rounds three times in the last ten years, most notably in 2009/10 beating Nice and then Nancy to reach the huitièmes before falling 4-0 to Auxerre.  With the 5,000-capacity Stade de Kervéguen at their disposal, they are able to play properly chez eux, and their route to the 32èmes has already seen them knock out a team from a higher league (beating third-tier Vannes 3-1 in the 6th round). It took penalties to get through to this stage, after drawing 2-2 with Sablé (CFA2) in the last round.

Meanwhile, newly-promoted Reims are 15th in Ligue 1, and pulling off the traditional ‘playing quite well but not scoring very often’ move – they have only 16 goals in the league, the second-worst record after lanterne rouge Nancy, but their defence is pretty solid, conceding only 20 and with 5 clean sheets so far. After a bright start, beating Sochaux, Montpellier, Nancy and Nice, they haven’t won since the 8th round, and their away form is poor, with only 3 of their 19 points coming on the road. With Plabennec also struggling to find the net – their top scorers both have only 3 goals this season – this could well be a low-scoring and frustrating affair (cue 5-goal thriller – ed.) but with Reims likely to lose some key players, most notably goalkeeper Kossi Agassa, to CAN duty, expect Plabennec to put a shift in – war araog atao!

!!SHOCK!! – Result: Plabennec 1 – 0 Reims
Steven Coat’s 28th minute goal was enough to knock the Ligue 1 team out – Plabennec are the result of the day as they overcame opposition playing three divisions above them.

LILLE OSC v NIMES OLYMPIQUE by @AGibneyftbl
19:45 Kick-Off: Grand Stade Lille Métropole

After finally finding some form in Ligue 2, “Les crocodiles” will be hoping to bring some bite to their Saturday night clash against 2011 Coupe de France winners Lille. Nimes won promotion to the second division last season and currently sit 10th after going five games without defeat. Travelling to the Grand Stade Lille Metropole should be a daunting task for Nimes Olympique but led by the experience of Victor Zvunka – winner of the Coupe de France in 1976 – and the enthusiasm built up in a fantastic first half of the season, there is nothing for Nimes to fear. After a poor few months in the league, all the pressure is on Lille to make an impressive cup run.

Clean sheets have not come easy for Les Dogues this season and Nimes will be confident that they can cause Aurelien Chedjou & Co. a few problems. Seydou Koné comes from scoring 22 goals in the fourth division and 21 goals in the National to a healthy five goals so far this season. Only Vincent Gragnic has scored more, finding the net eight teams from midfield this season is a superb return. Amazingly he has only ever scored once in a domestic cup game, it came against Monaco in the Coupe de la Ligue as his Sedan side won 4-1. What a story it would be if the 29-year old could score the winner in front of 40,000 fans.

Although the current season hasn’t quite gone the way Lille would have hoped, the recent 4-1 win over Montpellier has shed some sunlight over northern France and if Lille can play at the same level this weekend then Nimes could be in trouble. This could just well end up being a cup classic.

Result: Lille 3 – 2 Nimes
Lille coasted to 3-0 with goals from Payet, Balmont and Roux, but Nimes came back strongly, Gragnic and Kone pulling two back, and things looking a little dicey for the home side until Haddou was sent off late on.

SUNDAY 6th JANUARY

BOURG-PERONNAS v MONTPELLIER by @Philby1976
11:00 Kick-Off: Stade Marcel-Verchère

When looking around for some magie de la coupe, it helps if the participants have some previous, and the third-tier club from eastern France certainly have that.  Their best performance came in 1998, when they reached the quarter finals, knocking out top-tier teams Montpellier and Metz before coming up against Lyon, but they have also twice made the huitièmes, both times taking down a top-flight opponent on their journey; Strasbourg in 2003, before losing to Auxerre, that year’s winners, and Ajaccio in the last edition, before losing to Marseille.

This time, they have already seen off two Ligue 2 sides, getting revenge on Auxerre and then beating Monaco on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes, in possibly the biggest shock of the last round.  Montpellier, meanwhile, had looked to have found a bit of form after a shaky start to the season, but getting done 4-1 by Lille in the last game before the winter break was a bleak end to the year, and both their usual creative central midfield options (Belhanda and Cabella) are unavailable through suspension, to add to a swathe of injuries already affecting the defence and defensive midfield.  Against Monaco, the amateurs showed that they have the stamina to go the distance, whereas it is Montpellier who have had a habit of dropping off and conceding late goals.

FCBP have home advantage, and Instead of heading to the Stade Gerland as they have previously, are nipping up the road to the 11,400-capacity Stade Marcel Verchère in Bourg-en-Bresse, which looks likely to sell out.  The final upset-indicator of this match is Bourg-Peronnas’ goalkeeper Yassine El-Kharroubi , who has conceded only one goal in the cup run so far, and whose save from Valère Germain’s spot-kick won it for them against Monaco; also, he spent last season at Quevilly, and will therefore be the only player on the pitch who has already played in a final of the Coupe de France.

Taking all these elements together, Bourg-Peronnas will reasonably be cautiously optimistic about repeating the result of fifteen years ago.

Result: Bourg Peronnas 1 – 2 Montpellier (Herrera, Camara) – Montpellier gave themselves some unnecessary late jitters by not closing it down, and FCBP’s veteran striker Di Tommaso scored a penalty that made the last half hour rather frantic, but the Ligue 1 side held on.

LyonCDF

ÉPINAL v OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS by @J_746
13:15 Kick-Off: Stade de la Colombière

Lyon returned to training on Wednesday in high spirits given their decent position in Ligue 1 so far.  The club sit second behind Paris Saint Germain on goal difference and ahead of Marseille by the same token.  This Sunday sees the club travel north to Épinal in the round of 64 in the Coupe de France.

Épinal have not been enjoying the best of seasons in the Championnat National, currently sitting second from bottom and with a game in hand which may not be enough to see them out of the relegation zone, regardless of victory.  In the seventh round of competition, Épinal defeated Illzach Modenheim 3-2 away from home and in the last round, they saw off Saint-Louis Neuweg with a 3-1 victory away from home.  With this being said, Lyon will provide Épinal with a challenge which they have not faced thus far in the competition.

As is normal with cup competitions, Lyon must be wary of complacency as the smaller sides will always hope for the fairytale ties which the cup competition usually brings.  The side are doing very well in Ligue 1 so far this season with standout performances from the likes of goalkeeper Rémy Vercoutre and striker Bafétimbi Gomis drawing the plaudits.  Manager Rémy Garde has managed to create a sense of togetherness and confidence in the squad which was previously lacking.  These are the foundations of Garde’s Olympique Lyonnais side.  The Garde regime at Lyon is now in its second year and fans will be hoping he can build on the successes of last season.

!! SHOCK !! Result – Epinal 3 – 3 Lyon, Epinal win 4-2 on penalties – after a chaotic opening, Epinal going 2-0 up in the first quarter of an hour, Lyon clawed their way back in front, but were taken to extra time and then beaten on penalties. The holders are out.

FC METZ v OGC NICE by @jeremysmith98
13:15 Kick-Off: Stade Saint-Symphorien

A couple of months ago, the prospect for Nice of a trip to the Saint Symphorien in Metz for this Coupe de France clash might have been far more daunting. Nice were playing well and proving hard to beat, but not converting enough of those performances into victories, whilst Metz were flying high in the National, well clear (along with Creteil) of the chasing pack and seemingly shoo-ins to return to Ligue 2.

However, in recent weeks Claude Puel’s team have really clicked, led by the increasingly impressive Dario Cvitanich, whilst Metz’s form has hit the skids, winning only two of their last seven league matches. Although still in second place, fourth placed Colmar are just three points behind, with only the top three to gain promotion.

That said, Metz have only lost one match at home (a classically Messin implosion, losing 4-2 to lowly Orléans on the day of Metz’s 80th anniversary) and, after Metz’s defeat of two higher-placed teams in their Coupe de la Ligue run, there is no reason why they shouldn’t approach the match with confidence.

The match also has the added spice of the return of a couple of ex-Metz players. Mahamane Traoré had two impressive seasons with les Grenats before returning to les Aiglons, while goalkeeper Joris Delle will be hoping to be given a chance to play and impress against his former team (Jeremy Pied, another ex-Messin, is injured and will not be playing).

Expect an entertaining match between two attack-minded teams, which promises to be one of the highlights of the round.

Result – Metz 2 (Ngbakoto, Bourgeois) – 3 Nice (Maupay, Eysseric x2), and this did sound highly entertaining, Metz doing a fine job to run Nice close despite being down to ten men after Proment was sent off in the 21st minute – it was 1-1 at 90 minutes and Nice finally put the hammer down in extra time.

SM CAEN v SAINT-ETIENNE by @nicholasmcgee24
13:15 Kick-Off: Stade Michel d’Ornano

Saint-Etienne travel to Caen hoping to get the New Year off to a good start with a win over Caen, who suffered relegation from the top flight last term.

Les Verts saw their league form suffer in the weeks leading up to the winter break, winning just one of their last six contests in a dip that has seen them fade from potential title challengers to mid-table also-rans.

Indeed, Christophe Galtier’s men now sit five points shy of the top four, but after reaching the semi-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue back in November, the men from the Rhone may be able to find salvation in the form of France’s other domestic cup competition.

It remains to be seen whether the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Romain Hamouma and Max Gradel will be involved, but Galtier will undoubtedly have to field a strong team against a side that has adjusted well to life in Ligue 2.

Patrice Garande’s men are well positioned to make a return to Ligue 1, the Normandy club sit in third place in the second tier and are just four points shy of leaders Nantes. Attacking midfielder Alexandre Cuvillier and striker Mathieu Duhamel have been an integral part of Caen’s success this season, and the Saint-Etienne defence will have to perform well if they are to stymie the prolific pair.

The visitors will certainly go into the game as favourites, however this should be one of the closer ties of the round and if Saint-Etienne are not able to rediscover their early season form, then a shock could well be on the cards.

Result – Caen 2 – 3 St Etienne – Fajr scoring two penalties for Caen, St Etienne with a brace for Guilavogui and one for Mayi.

CHATEAUROUX v GIRONDINS de BORDEAUX by @iTufani
13:15 Kick-Off: Stade Gaston Petit 

Châteauroux were living a dream in 2004. Having beaten the mighty future Champions League winners Monaco in the quarterfinals of Coupe de France and then going on to outclass Dijon in the semis, “La Berri” were to meet PSG in the final.

The dream was alive until the 65th minute of the final, when Pauleta headed the winner from a corner past Rodolphe Roche. Everything else was a history.

With a much younger side in 2013, the small club from central France will try to repeat the brightest moment in their 130-year history. The only remainder from the 2004 side active in the club is former winger Armindo Ferreira, who now works with the youth team. Châteauroux academy is well-known for grooming the likes of Florent Malouda, Stéphane Dalmat and Bakary Sako. Another home-grown star, Sébastien Roudet, who now plays for Sochaux, was part of the historic side of 2004. Among modern-day Châteauroux academy graduates, none can be named as club’s regular starter, but there are promising prospects in Jordan Fauque, Nasser Chamed and Michael N’Kololo. Only Fauque is likely to play on Sunday.

The usual Châteauroux back four is Fernando Neves and Massamba Sambou as the central defensive pair with Loïc Nestor and Rémi Fournier on the wings, but significant change is inevitable, since Sambou is suspended and will have to watch the game from the stands, and Neves will lead Cape Verde to their first Africa Cup of Nations. The other disciplinary absentees of the game are Châteauroux midfielder Ludovic Guerriero and Bordeaux defender Marc Planus.

Both teams are capable of tight performances, and will likely be risk-averse, closing the game down as soon as they get the goal. Despite scoring a lot in the first half an hour of play, Les Girondins hold the dubious record of most draws this season among Ligue 1 teams. Notably, Châteauroux hold the same record in Ligue 2.

Bordeaux will have to prove themselves as the team of higher class. The timing is perfect for them to announce the two-year contract extension for the manager Francis Gillot. The club is working hard to avoid a repeat of the infamous malaise of 2010.

Whether it will be a step towards Bordeaux’ first trophy since Blanc era, or another demonstration of Coupe de France magic, remains to be seen at the grounds of 17,000 capacity Stade Gaston Petit on Sunday.

Result – Chateauroux 2 – 3 Bordeaux. The home side were a goal down from Ben Khalfallah when Ehua was sent off; they equalised through Beauvue and then went ahead through Afougou, but Bordeaux reeled them in with goals from Henrique and an injury-time winner from Mariano. 

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OLYMPIQUE de MARSEILLE V GUINGAMP by @MarseilleUK
13:15 Kick-Off: Stade Vélodrome 

Marseille enter the Coupe de France facing the 2009 winners of the competition, Ligue 2’s 5th placed EA Guingamp. Back in 2009, Guingamp came back from a goal down against Stade Rennes to win the Coupe de France final 2-1, both goals coming from the man of the match, Eduardo (now at AC Ajaccio). Marseille’s Rod Fanni played for Rennes in that final and will hope that OM avoid another ‘giant killing’ as they suffered at the hands of US Quevilly in last year’s competition.

In truth Marseille are in far better shape than when they faced Quevilly last season, however, their opponents also offer much stiffer competition. Guingamp are sat 1 point from 3rd place as manager Jocelyn Gourvennec looks to improve on last season’s 7th placed finish. EAG have only suffered 3 league defeats and they all came before the end of September at the hands of Dijon, Monaco and Nimes.

Malian international, Mustapha Yatabare, has spearheaded the Guingamp attack this season, netting 10 times. Support has come from former Toulouse midfielder Thibault Giresse who has already provided 7 goals and 3 assists.

If history is to be taken into account, Marseille have the better recent record over Guingamp, with Andre Ayew’s first half goal settling the Coupe de la Ligue round of 16 match last time the two sides met. Guingamp’s last win over OM came in the 2002-2003 season when a little known player by the name of Didier Drogba helped secure a 2-0 for EAG at the Stade Velodrome.

Result – OM 2 – 1 Guingamp – it took extra time, but a double from Gignac outdid Mandanne’s late strike. 

RC LENS v STADE RENNAIS by @Puchkin_B
13:15 Kick-Off: Stade Félix Bollaert 

It has been a similar journey so far for Rennes and Lens. A terrible start to the league season, with one win in the first seven games for Rennes, one in the first nine for Lens. Panic in the summer, struggle on the pitch and the promise of a poor season.

October, however, saw both teams get back on the right track and catch up in style with long runs of positive results. Lens are now unbeaten in ten games and back in the top half of the Ligue 2 table while Rennes have been the best team in Ligue 1 from Game week 7 and now sit alone in fourth position.

As they face each other in the round of 64 of the Coupe de France, both teams will aim to launch 2013 on a positive note. One could wonder what the level of motivation will be for the cup, however, as both teams have got great objectives ahead: Rennes will play a Coupe de la Ligue semi-final a week later against Montpellier and try to hang on to their position behind the league’s big 3, while all minds in Lens will be set on trying to get into the mix for Ligue 1 promotion as soon as possible.

Despite their home advantage, Lens will certainly be tempted to let Rennes come to them and avoid exposing their defence too much to the Breton side’s impressive attacking force (although Pitroipa and Diarra will miss the game to prepare for the African Cup of Nations). Expect a duel of counter-attacks in this game, in which no one will want to expend too much energy by going all the way to extra time.

? SHOCK ? Result -  Lens 2 – 1 Rennes – Rennes scored twice, but unfortunately one was a Theophile-Catherine own goal to add to Lemoigne’s early strike for Lens, Feret got the goal in the right end for the visitors. 

LUÇON v STADE BREST by @SimonScutt
15:00 Kick-Off: Stade Henri Desgrange

La Coupe de France revisits the Vendée region of France this weekend.  Luçon VF will be taking on the Bretons of Stade Brestois 29. This is the second year in succession Luçon will take on Ligue 1 opposition, having been defeated in the round of 16 by Olympique Lyonnais last season. While that game was played at FC Nantes’ Stade de la Beaujoire and attracted a decent crowd of around 15,000; Sunday’s game will take place at La Roche sur Yon some 35 km away.

Luçon are currently sitting third in France’s fourth tier and defeated Saumur and Pontivy in the previous two rounds in the cup; now they are aiming to match 2012’s achievement against one of Ligue 1’s lesser lights.

Stade Brestois 29 meanwhile will be looking to atone for last season’s exit to fellow Vendéens Chamois Niortais at the same stage last season. Landry Chauvin has arrived from last season’s madhouse at FC Nantes and has been carrying on the work of Alex Dupont in keeping SB29 competitive in the top tier.

One thing that could offer a glimmer of hope to Luçon is Brest’s away record. With a solitary victory on the road last season (even that coming on the final day of the season), SB29 just do not seem the same team away from the Stade Francis-le-Blé. Another would be the SB29 goal-scoring threat (or lack thereof); Brest finished bottom of the goal scoring charts in Ligue 1 last year. They are however faring somewhat better this season, thanks in no small part to the exploits of Israeli attacker Eden Ben Bassat, scorer of 7 goals so far.

Brest will be heavy favourites for this tie coming up against fourth-tier opposition, so it will all be down to Luçon to go one better than last year and upset the Ligue 1 club.

Result – Lucon 1 – 1 Brest a.e.t – Brest win 4-2 on penalties. A very very close one, goals from Seck and Dernis taking the match to extra time, and then to penalties.

DIEPPE v FC NANTES by @SimonScutt
16:00 Kick-Off: Stade des Vertus 

FC Nantes come into this game as the newly crowned ‘Champion d’Automne’ of Ligue 2. They are sitting pretty atop the table a point ahead of AS Monaco in second and four points clear of Angers SCO in 4th. However, their cup form has not exactly been scintillating thus far; two victories in similar contests both by a score-line of 1-0 and both requiring an own goal to progress. Hardly champion form, n’est-ce pas?

Obviously, all that mattered in those matches was to progress and FC Nantes managed to do that. Furthermore, it seems difficult to predict anything other than a repeat in Sunday’s game, coming back after a fortnight off and with their previous match being a stodgy 0-0 draw at bottom club Sedan.

Ligue 2’s top club head to France’s northern border to take on FC Dieppe who currently lead their CFA2 group (France’s fifth tier).

They are seeking promotion but are pragmatic so as to not overly pressurise their players, as states their website.
La Coupe de France delivers some games that only it can, this is evidenced by FCD’s 7th round away victory over Geldar de Kourou from Guyana via a penalty shootout (not something the FA Cup can offer!). In the 8th round FCD easily disposed of the somewhat less tropical FC Compiegne to set up Sunday’s sold-out clash with les Canaris.

FC Nantes suffered an ignominious exit in last season’s edition of the CdF to 7th-tier opposition, TA Rennes, and this ought to inspire les Canaris to deal with the not insignificant challenge of FC Dieppe in the same manner they have done so far in the competition.

Result – Dieppe 2 (Guyot, Mortoire s.p.) – 3 Nantes (Djordjevic x2, Trebel) – Mortoire’s late penalty made it close, but it was too late (90e.) to force extra time.

CA BASTIA v SC BASTIA by @AGibneyftbl
16:00 Kick-Off: Stade Francois Coty

It’s not often you get a big derby game in the 9th round of the Coupe de France but that’s exactly what we have on the island of Corsica this weekend. Alas. it’s not Ajaccio v Bastia but the very local Cercle Athletique Bastiais against Ligue 1 side Bastia. Ironically the game will be played at the Stade Francois Coty, home to l’ACA. With Bastia’s ongoing stadium ban this could be the closest they get to a home game for quite a while, so expect a huge number of fans to make the 2 hour drive across the island to support their side on Sunday afternoon.

As the Ligue 1 side made the rise from the Championnat National to Ligue 1 there has been an equally impressive progression from their neighbours, who were playing down in the regional league as little as 12 years ago; they were champions in the CFA last season and are currently doing well in the third tier, sitting in 10th place. Alassane N’Diaye and Romain Pastorelli are the danger men with four goals each but the name most know by British fans is that of Lillian Nalis. Formerly of Leicester City, Sheffield United, Plymouth Argyle and Swindon Town, the midfielder has played for both Bastia sides and is currently the Assistant Manager of CA after finishing his career as a player on the island.

These two sides don’t meet in the league or cup very often but two years ago Bastia were victorious over CA with a whopping 5-1 victory, and it is testament to the great work that SCB have done in the last few years that a few of the players that played that day still start for the club now in Ligue 1. Wahbi Khazri and his teammates will hope their extra Ligue 1 experience will prove too much for their island neighbours.

!! SHOCK !! Result – CA Bastia 2 – 0 SC Bastia – goals from Truchet and Grimaldi came in the first half and the National side ran out pretty comfortably from there.

 PSGCDF

ARRAS v PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN by @jon_legossip
19:45 Kick-Off: Stade de l’Epopée 

Paris Saint-Germain head into their first game of 2013 in the same way they did in 2012, facing a small provincial outfit in an unfancied round of 64 fixture on Sunday night. Like Locminé, Arras are sitting unheralded in CFA 2-Group A, but unlike their Breton predecessors Arras itself is well known.

Located in Pas-de-Calais on the edge of the Scarpe, Arras Football’s Stade Michel Brabant (also known as Degouve Brabant) will play host to the biggest game in its history when Carlo Ancelotti’s men come to town. Fresh from a 5-1 thumping of Qatari side Lekhwiya in a prestigious friendly in Doha on Wednesday, the capital club will entertain a sold-out 3,000 crowd.

Whether they get a glimpse of €45million new boy Lucas Moura is yet unknown, but looks unlikely. Last season Ancelotti used the game as a chance to utilise some of his fringe players, and whilst this year’s opponents are not quite as parochial as Locminé, PSG’s more untested stars should have no problem disposing of the amateur outfit.

Should. That is the beauty of the Coupe de France; the competition has boasted representatives from the lower leagues at the semi-final stages or better in each of the past three years. Quevilly of Championnat National even made the Final last season where Lyon only beat them narrowly. So PSG beware.

That said if there is one team who take this competition seriously then it is les Parisiens. Eight-time winners, the only club to have lifted the trophy more times are bitter rivals Marseille who boast ten titles. Expect PSG to make light work of Arras even if their hosts do put up an initial fight. It took a late Diego Lugano goal to end Locminé’s brave resistance last year; we could be set for a similar outcome here.

Result: Arras 3 – 4 PSG.  When PSG went 2-0 up in the first ten minutes with goals from Lavezzi and Matuidi, this was shaping up to be a rout, but Arras refused to go quietly – Ait-Bouhou got one back, then Camara restroed the two-goal advantage. In the second-half, Despres made it two for the home side, then Lavezzi got his second; a frantic last ten minutes saw Arras again come within one goal through Bernard, but they could not get the equaliser. PSG progress, but it was no procession – Arras did what no Ligue 1 or Champions League side have done so far, and put three goals past the Parisiens.

Monday 7th November

FC ISTRES v VALENCIENNES by @MezahiMaher
19:45 Kick-Off: Stade Parsemain 

This fixture sees two of this year’s overachievers take to Stade Parsemain in a late Monday night draw. Last season, both sides sputtered through their matches and were consigned to mid-table irrelevance, so many were taken back when both Istres and Valenciennes found themselves haggling for top spots in their respective leagues this season. Valenciennes owe their success to an attacking philosophy, with Gael Danic, Anthony Le Tallec and Foued Kadir getting off to blistering starts amassing respectable tallies in both the goals and assists columns.

Istres may however have been dealt a lifeline as Valenciennes are now in a precarious situation. Foued Kadir’s dream move to Marseille recently materialized and Gael Danic suffered a frustrating injury which will rule him out for two months. It will be interesting to how Daniel Sanchez will cope without his two best attacking talents.

But Valenciennes still possess the quality to snatch a result at le Parsemain – especially at le Parsemain. Istres’ ground is notorious for its lack of atmosphere. Coach Jose Pasqualetti bitterly noted on its emptiness a few months back:

“Unfortunately, there is no support here. We have to count on ourselves because we know that there will be no one in the stadium. If there’s no mistral* that is blowing behind us, there is no help.’

In cagey cup ties, fervent support is almost always relied upon by the underdogs to augment chances of an upset, and Istres won’t be able to rely on that to see them through. Fortunately for Pasqualetti’s men, they have an attacking armada of their own; Nicolas de Previllle, a young striker scouted by Lille and Reims, leads the squad with 5 goals. Veteran Algerian striker Nassim Akrour continues to defy the laws of aging and has chipped in with a few of his own, and his compatriot Sid Ali Yahia-Cherif was imported from across the Mediterranean to provide a lateral threat. Finally, buccaneering full-back Niangbo can also cause problems to the Valenciennes defense if complacency settles in.

*a strong, cold and usually dry regional wind in France, coming from the north or northwest, which accelerates when it passes through the valleys of the Rhone and the Durance Rivers to the coast of the Mediterranean around the Camargue region.

Result: Istres 3 – 3 Valenciennes a.e.t, Istres win 4-3 on penalties.  A match that exploded late on – 0-0 at half time, the Ligue 1 side side went ahead through Dossevi before Yahia-Chrif equalised in the 90th minute. In extra time, two goals in two minutes from Akrour and the home side looked through; Valenciennes clawed their way back with a strike from Aboubakar and a penalty from Mater, but Istres held their nerve in the shoot-out to progress.

Other fixtures

Saturday 5th January

Consolat Marseille v Moulins – 13:30 KO – result: 1 – 1 a.e.t, Moulins win 5-4 on penalties

Le Mans v Le Poire Sur Vie – 14:00 KO – result: Le Mans 1 – 2 Le Poire sur Vie

ASM Belfort v Le Havre – 14:00 KO - result: Belfort 1 – 3 Le Havre 

Savigneux-Montbrison v Venissieux Minguettes – 16:00 KO – result: 1-1 a.e.t, Venissieux Minguettes win 3-1 on penalties

St. Malo v Vertou – 17:00 KO – result: 1-1 a.e.t, Vertou win 4-2 on penalties

Amneville v Raon L’Etape – 17:00 KO – result: Amneville 1 – 2 Raon L’Etape (a.e.t)

Rouen v Ajaccio – 17:00 KO - !!SHOCK!! Result : 1-1 a.e.t, Rouen win 3-2 on penalties

Stade Bordelais v Carquefou – 17:00 KO – result: Stade Bordelais 1 – 0 Carquefou

 

Sunday 6th January

AS Muretaine v Vendee Fontenay Foot – 13:00 KO – result: Muret 0 – 2 Fontenay

Meaux Academy Cs v Le Portel – 13:30 KO – result: Meaux 1 – 0 Le Portel

Pontarlier v Sedan – 14:00 KO – result: Pontarlier 1 – 2 Sedan

Avenir Foot Lozere v Arles-Avignon – 14:00 KO – !!SHOCK!! result: Mende Avenir Foot Lozere 2 – 0 Arles Avignon

 

Round of 32 – to be played 22/23 January

Fontenay v Troyes

CA Bastia v Brest

Sedan v Lorient

Plabennec v Lille

Moulins v Bordeaux

Rouen v OM

Meaux v St Etienne

Nice v Nancy

Epinal v Nantes

Vertou v Evian

Raon L’Etape v Istres

Mende Avenir Foot Lozere v Le Havre

Venissieux Minguettes v Le Poire sur Vie

Montpellier v Sochaux

PSG v Toulouse

Stade Bordelais v Lens

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