Ligue 2: Week 16 – Preview

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Two of Ligue 2’s form teams meet on Saturday as Bob Bradley’s Le Havre visit Nancy, and before then we have nine fixtures on Friday night – including Dijon trying to get back in form away in Paris, and Red Star trying to put pressure on the top sides away at Niort. Third play fifth as Metz face Bourg-en-Bresse and down at the bottom, AC Ajaccio will look to stop RC Lens’ recent upturn in form.

AC Ajaccio v RC Lens: Friday 19:00 – @meatmansoccer

Recent years haven’t been kind to AC Ajaccio. Since their  return to Ligue 2 they’ve been left in the shadows of their big Corsican rivals SC Bastia. Just to add even more humiliation, city rivals GFC Ajaccio are also now a top flight team.

Olivier Pantaloni’s side only just survived last term and it looks like they will struggle again in the current campaign. So far, they have just two wins to their name, although recent displays have been more encouraging. Their home performances have actually been decent all year, but results haven’t always been what they would have expected. In between both boxes, ACA have been fine, but a lack of attacking threat has become a major issue. On the positive side, it might be that Russian striker Andrey Panyukov is starting to find his feet. He netted twice in a 2-0 win against Bourg-en-Bresse a couple of weeks ago and the hosts will hope he can kick on from that.

Travelling to Corsica this week are arguably the biggest team in Ligue 2: Lens. They are by far the best supported team and have big ambitions, but their relegation back to the second tier has been far from ideal. It took them a whopping eight games to pick up their first win. However a general lack of goals and too many draws have cost them too much.

Antoine Kombouare is an excellent coach, although he’s been badly hindered by off-field and other incidents here at Lens. Despite their lofty ambitions, the squad itself is only mediocre and it’s no surprise to see them languishing in midtable. This is always a difficult place to travel, and with the ban on away fans in French football, they will also be missing their usual vocal support. This won’t be a classic but if Ajaccio can take their chances then they have a decent opportunity of upsetting their illustrious opponents.

 

FC Metz v Bourg-en-Bresse: Friday 19:00 – @meatmansoccer

It was mentioned in last week’s preview how Metz’s results were better than their actual performances this season and that they needed to raise their game in order to stay in touch with the promotion big boys. Well, finally they got stung, and for once they couldn’t dig their way out of trouble after losing 0-1 at home to Auxerre. With Nancy and Dijon both registering easy wins, the Lorraine side have dropped down to third place and face a potential banana skin this week. Metz need to raise their level again, but as was highlighted last week, their lack of goals is a massive concern. Although they have a very solid defence and midfield, they need to hit the back of the net more.

Scoring goals hasn’t been an issue for Bourg-en-Bresse. Only Dijon have netted more than them this season, although the promoted outfit do have the worst defensive stats in the whole division. That has seemingly not hindered them at all though and they currently sit in a magnificent fifth place.

Everyone expected them to be the cellar-dwellers this season, but their positive attitude and willingness to ‘have a go’ in all matches has so far served them well. They have no fear and anyone who underestimates them will encounter problems. This is a horrible situation for Metz because the media will expect them to win. But on current form Bourg-en-Bresse are arguably playing much better and are in a more favourable situation with no pressure on their shoulders. If this ended up as an away victory then it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

 

AS Nancy v Le Havre AC: Saturday 13:00 – @Gibney_A

On Saturday afternoon Bob Bradley’s Le Havre travel east to the Lorraine region, trying to maintain their excellent form against league leaders AS Nancy. Monday night’s goalless draw against Brest may have stopped their winning run, but it takes HAC to five games unbeaten, giving Nancy food for thought this weekend.

Before their form turned, Le Havre had won only once in eight games, and were looking at a tough season ahead. After Thierry Goudet’s departure, credit has to go to interim coach Christophe Revault for the club’s excellent form. Now, Bradley has to implement his ideas on the French side – the real test has yet to begin.

Bradley will look toward both Jean-Pascal Fontaine and Mathieu Duhamel to continue their goal-scoring form – both have scored twice during the club’s four-game winning run. Then the American coach will be asked to get the best out of youngsters Harisson Manzala and Lys Mousset.

Facing les Chardons at the Stade Marcel Picot will be no easy task. Pablo Correa’s team have won five out of their last six games, and have only lost once at home all season.

Correa always sets up his side to be hard to break down and asks a lot physically of all his players. Goals have come from all over the Nancy squad, with 11 different players finding the net this season.

No team has scored more goals at home than Nancy this campaign, but in contrast, Le Havre have the second best away record in Ligue 2 – only beaten by Nancy themselves.

Frustrated by a fantastic performance by Brest’s Johan Hartock on Monday, Bradley was denied his first win – and after being knocked out of the Coupe de France in his very first match, the pressure isn’t going to abate any time soon for the former USMNT boss.

Nancy will start as favourites to take all three points, but any points gained by Le Havre on Saturday would be a huge positive for their new coach.

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