Coupe de France – US Boulogne v US Sarre-Union
Both these teams have been in the cup for a fair few rounds already. Boulogne started in round five, seeing off a couple of district teams 4-1 and 5-1 before another 4-1 to beat Calais (CFA) in round 7. They then pulled off a minor giantkilling in round 8 by knocking out Le Havre 2-0 away, with goals from Julien-Antoine Begue and Anthony Soubervie. They sit fourth in National having gone into the winter break on a four-game winning streak, Georges Gope-Fenepej coming into a good vein of scoring form with three goals in that run, after a transfer from Troyes in the summer. Boulogne spread the goals around the squad, with Begue and Henry-Michel Gbizie top scorers on 5, and have scored 25 and conceded only 15 in their 16 league games.
It’s been a decade of ups and downs for the team from the northern Côte d’Opale. Under the stewardship of Philippe Montanier from 2004-9 they managed three promotions, rising from CFA all the way to Ligue 1 for the 2009/10 season. Montanier won the Ligue 2 manager of the year award from the UNFP for the promotion campaign, before moving on to Valenciennes – the club lasted only one season in the top flight before sliding back down the league pyramid with numerous managerial changes. Their best recent performance in the Coupe de France came in that brief stay in Ligue 1, when they reached the quarter finals in 2010 only to be beaten by serial cupset underdogs US Quevilly; under current boss Stephane Le Mignan they made it to the seiziemes last season, only to be beaten 2-0 by Montanier’s Rennes.
They will be cautiously eyeing the promotion spots, therefore, but should feel confident of being able to deal with opponents who are struggling to stay in CFA. Sarre-Union currently sit just above the relegation zone, for reasons that are a bit beyond us as they are level on points and goal difference with 14th place and have scored fewer goals. They started their cup campaign in the fourth round, and have never made it through to the post-Christmas stage before. After a slightly shaky start needing extra time to beat DH opponents Strasbourg Vauban, they stormed through the next three rounds against lower-league opposition scoring 13 and conceding only 1, in their 4-1 win over 7th-tier FC Saverne, with goals from Rachid Hayef, Adem Denizer and a brace from Lahcen Belktati.
They then needed extra time again to overcome fellow CFA side Fleury Merogis 1-0 in the 8th round, but it was worth it to get revenge for a 3-1 defeat in the league fixture in November. Fleury went down to ten men with 20 minutes of regulation time to go, and Jean-Philippe Dje scored USSU’s winner in the 97th minute; he has 4 in the league, behind Omar Hassidou on 6. The highlights of the Saverne game show a team that missed some good chances early on before getting into their stride, and Philippe Klock’s late consolation for Saverne (3 min 40 in) was the pick of the goals in that match. Despite their cup scoring record, they have scored only 16 and shipped 23 in their 14 league games so far, so the signs are that they will struggle to score against more adept opposition.
All things considered, this looks like a reasonably straightforward home win.