PREVIEW – Lyon v Monaco: Coupe de la Ligue Huitiemes
As an aperitif before the last game of the year and the Christmas break, we have the last sixteen round of the Coupe de la Ligue, with the European teams joining in the fun.
Last Round Round-Up
Three Ligue 2 teams made it through, and all played Ligue 1 opposition away from home, with varying degrees of difficulty. Arles-Avignon needed extra time to beat Reims 3-2 in a match where they showed much character. Nicolas de Preville opened the scoring for the home side in the first half, but the visitors hit back through Mamadou Niang and Teji Savanier in the second, and were only denied a victory in regular time with a 90th minute equaliser from Gaetan Courtet.
To add to the feeling of impending disappointment, Arles-Avignon had Samuel Gigot sent off early in added time, but Fawzi Ouaamar got the winner and the Ligue 2 side were through. They are currently bottom of the league with only 13 scored after 17 games, so this adventure might not last, but their opponents next round are Guingamp, who may have other priorities given their recent Europa League success, so who knows. Also, if you’re wondering where Pascal Chimbonda’s pitched up, it’s the Parc des Sports.
AC Ajaccio came away from Montpellier’s temporary home at the Altrad stadium with a win through Mouaad Madri’s goal just before half-time, in a match where Montpellier played less of a B-team than the scoreline might suggest. Twelfth in Ligue 2, ACA will have their work cut out for them as they welcome PSG to Corsica, where Ronald Zubar could put in an appearance.
Creteil went one better – as predicted – beating Lens with second-half strikes from Jean-Michel Lesage and Ludovic Genest, and in other blast-from-the-past news, this is where Frederic Piquionne is currently plying his trade. They are currently thirteenth in the league and will be away at Rennes.
Ligue 2 teams dropping out of the competition were Laval, beaten 4-0 away at Nantes (Schechter brace, Bessat, Bangoura), and Auxerre going down 3-1 in Bastia (SC), where they took the lead early through Yanis Mbombo Lokwa before the home side hit back in the second half with goals from Floyd Ayite and a double for Djibril Cisse.
Goal-fest of the round was a seven-goal thriller in Caen, which saw Clermont beaten in injury time of extra time by a Mathieu Duhamel strike (his second of the evening). A chaotic second half saw Clermont take the lead through Remy Dugimont, Caen hit back through Julien Feret, the lead passing over again with Harry Novillo’s strike for Clermont, Duhamel and Herve Bazile putting the hosts back ahead before Kevin Diogo forced extra time with a late equaliser. So, gutting for Corinne Diacre’s men, who are hovering just three points above the relegation zone. And probably a nightmare for any journalists trying to file a match report.
In the all-Ligue 1 clashes, Toulouse got rinsed 1-3 by Bordeaux (Pallois, Contento, Diabate, before a late consolation for Akpa Akpro) just a few days before losing 2-1 away to them in the league; Rennes beat Marseille 2-1 at home with Konradsen levelling things up after Batshuayi’s early goal, Brice Dja Djedje and Paul-Georges Ntep both getting sent off for a fight shortly afterwards (Ntep had been on the field all of two minutes when this happened), and ending with an injury-time winner from Philipp Hosiner.
Another goalfest as Metz won on penalties away in Nice after a 3-3 draw, in another faintly chaotic game where the visitors went 3-0 up inside 20 minutes through Palomino, Ngkaboto and Vion, Nice made it 2-3 at half-time thanks to Maupay and Bosetti, and a late late Dario Cvitanich penalty levelled things. He then missed one in the shoot-out (as did Bodmer and Bosetti, with Plea and Eysseric converting), while after Florent Malouda’s miss for Metz (given his late miss against Bordeaux in game 16, possibly somebody else should be getting that nod), Doukoure, Marchal and Palomino all converted to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat from the jaws of victory. Or something.
The prospects for a cupset again look limited, given the current league positions of the minnows. Guingamp are thirteenth, after breaking PSG’s unbeaten run in the league, so perhaps less concerned about the league than they were three games ago when they were dead last. With something of a gap opening up at the bottom, and Metz and Toulouse both in terrible form, EAG will be on a high after recent results and might well fancy another cup run. Arles-Avignon‘s chances therefore look bad, as do AC Ajaccio‘s, even if PSG choose to send a youth team to Corsica. The best chance may be for Creteil – while Rennes are seventh, if they continue their shaky run of form after conceding six and scoring none in their last two league games, we may still see one Ligue 2 side make it through to the post-Christmas rounds – although not on TV, thanks to the vagaries of the schedule.
The TV schedulers do look to have called things right with Lyon v Monaco as the big game to finish the round. This is a re-run of the 2001 final, which Lyon won 2-1 after extra time. This season, they also won the league fixture 2-1 back in game 5, with goals from Fekir and Tolisso, and Ocampos scoring for the visitors. Monaco have certainly improved since then – that result put them (briefly) in the relegation zone – but even their successful Champions League campaign thus far identifies that their main problem is scoring goals, and they have all sorts of staffing issues at the back.
Lyon will have had four clear days to prepare after their comfortable 3-0 win over Caen on Friday, Monaco just the two after their heroically obdurate 1-0 win over Marseille. Whether ASM will have enough actual defenders to make up a back four may be less of an issue than previously thought, after they held out against the best attack in the league playing two rightbacks, a centre-back, and Jeremy Toulalan; this time, they will face the second-best attack in the league, and you get the feeling that something has to give at some point. Also, they are now sixth, and only two points off Bordeaux in fifth, so Jardim may prioritise their climb back up the table. Monaco are away at Metz in game 19, while Lyon are at Bordeaux. They look to have more strength in depth, and more experience even amongst the youngsters, so we’d imagine a home win here. Although with little confidence, given Monaco’s recent results.
Elsewhere in the grands chocs, Bastia v Caen matches two relegation candidates trying to cheer themselves up, and Nantes v Metz could be a low-scoring affair. We’d have confidently predicted an away win for Bordeaux at Lille before LOSC managed to score three (!) at the weekend, but as they were playing against ten men for the whole match bar 39 seconds at the beginning, we still lean towards the Girondins on this one.
Schedule – CST – and TV coverage for France-based viewers:
Tuesday 16 December
18.00 – SC Bastia v Caen (France 4)
21.00 – Nantes v Metz (France 4)
Wednesday 17 December
18.40 – Lorient v St Etienne (France 4)
21.00 – Lille v Bordeaux, Lyon v Monaco, AC Ajaccio v PSG, Arles-Avignon v Guingamp, Rennes v Creteil Lusitanos (France 3*)
* The France 3 schedule will have different matches by region (with the possibility to switch regions watching online) being:
AC Ajaccio v PSG – Corse, Paris, Ile de France, Centre
Lille v Bordeaux – Aquitaine, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardie
Lyon v Monaco – other regions