Ligue 2 Preview: Week Two
After Steve Wyss’s excellent team-by-team guides to kick off the new season in Ligue 2, FFW’s coverage of the second tier will continue with a weekly preview, as one of our experts picks out three stand-out games each week.
2eme Journée – Brendan MacFarlane
Sochaux v Metz: Friday 19:00
The pick of the second weekend of Ligue 2’s fixtures sees two of the championship’s promotion favourites clash, as relegated Metz travel to the Stade Auguste-Bonal to take on Sochaux.
Both clubs – with the 2nd and 3rd highest budgets respectively – have been busy in the current transfer window. Les Lionceaux have so far added four new players to the club, including experienced Stade Brestois 29 midfielder, Johan Ramare, who has moved to the club in order to boost their promotion hopes with his experience.
Olivier Echouafni’s side are also benefiting from the club’s flourishing youth system, with a host of the club’s Coupe Gambardella winners from last season set to become involved in the club’s first-team set-up. Last Friday’s match saw the inclusions of Thomas Robinet, Jérôme Onguéné and Nicolas Senzemba within the first-team squad. With Mathéus Vivian missing through suspension, Onguéné could once again play a full match this week.
Metz have also been heavily engaged in transfer dealings, as new coach José Riga looks to build a squad capable of returning to the top flight. The Moselle outfit have signed a total of eight new faces, including three Portuguese players. One such addition is Amido Baldé; after missing a host of chances last week against Lens and receiving criticism from some supporters, the centre-forward will be keen to make the most of any chances that come his way on Friday night.
Both sides showed a sense of defensive solidity in their first match, but they also showed inefficiency in front of goal. This could be a very tight match, but it nonetheless promises to be an intriguing encounter, given the potential strength of both sides.
Le Havre v AC Ajaccio: Friday 19:00
In a far from eventful opening weekend, Le Havre’s 3-1 win over Bourg-en-Bresse included half the goals scored by all 20 Ligue 2 clubs. Despite being reduced to ten men thanks to Jerôme Mombris’ straight red card, the Norman side made light work of their opponents, excelling with a strong second-half performance. On Friday night they will host AC Ajaccio at the Stade Océane, and the Corsican side will be hoping to improve upon their underwhelming goalless home opener against Dijon.
The coastal side could still lose last season’s talisman Mickaël Le Bihan during the current transfer window, but unlike other Ligue 2 coaches, Thierry Goudet has so far only brought in a couple of reinforcements. New defensive addition Cédric Cambon was on the scoresheet in the club’s opeining match, but the other two goals were scored by centre-forwards Joseph Mendes and Lys Mousset, with the latter’s goal an extremely early contender for goal of the season. A product of les Havrais’ highly-regarded youth system, 19-year-old Mousset could be a talent worth following this season.
Their Corsican opponents will be hoping to open their scoring account for the season and the club’s head coach, Olivier Pantaloni, will be hoping that his new additions will be able to have a direct impact on his side’s performances. With new signing Ryad Nouri in the squad, as well as Ajaccio-born Johan Cavalli (Ligue 2’s top assist provider last season) the potential for creativity is there. Pantaloni will be hoping this shows itself on Friday.
Valenciennes FC v AJ Auxerre: Friday 20:00
Two of French football’s struggling former Ligue 1 stalwarts will meet at the Stade du Hainault, as hosts Valenciennes take on a talented Auxerre side. The northerners won their opening game against Chamois Niortais 1-0 and new coach David Le Frapper will be hoping to record a second competitive victory against the Burgundian side.
Auxerre were guilty of underperforming last season and Jean-Luc Vannuchi’s side frustrated supporters last week as they failed to break down Brest’s unyielding backline. It is a fixture with plenty of promise, as both sides are capable of producing good spells of play.
Similar to Sochaux, Valenciennes’ first team is currently being strengthened by the promotion of a number of talented young players from the club’s academy system. Right-back Angelo Fulgini is one such player and the much talked-about France U19 international headed in his side’s winner in Niort. He was joined in last week’s starting line-up by Olympique Lyonnais target Lucas Tousart, and the talented holding midfielder will seek to dominate proceedings in the middle of the park.
Auxerre’s main strength lies in their depth of skill and experience in midfield. Youngsters Grégory Berthier and Samed Kılıç offer Vannuchi’s side plenty of flair and creativity, while the experienced and more rugged duo of former Niort captain Mouhamadou Diaw and the colossal Ibrahima Seck may be used to physically undermine the opposing midfield. The club’s new goalkeeper Zacharie Boucher impressed on his debut and he may have an important role to play again on Friday evening.
This is a match that could really go either way between two sides that have the potential to do very well this season.