Ligue 2 : Week 18 Previews
Much of Ligue 2 will be pleased to return to the bread and butter of league action this weekend. Seven second-tier clubs were knocked out of the Coupe de France last weekend, including the current top three, Dijon, Nancy and Metz, and only eight Ligue 2 clubs have made it through to the next round. The old “concentrating on the league” line was trotted out a lot, so concentrate on Ligue 2 we will…
Nimes Olympique vs Le Havre AC Friday, 19.00 by @meatmansoccer
Before a ball was even kicked, Nimes knew they were facing an extremely tough battle this season. The 8-point deduction that they were given for a match-fixing controversy a couple of years ago was always going to weigh heavily upon their shoulders. But it seems the mental blow of having to overcome such a big deficit has been even tougher than imagined. On paper, the Nimes squad isn’t too bad and the their overall performances this year have been fairly good too. But this hasn’t always equated into results, and just three wins in 16 games simply hasn’t been a good enough return. They are currently eight points from safety and even without the deduction would only just be outside of the red zone. It was all too much for Jose Pasqualetti who resigned, and the new man in charge is Bernard Blaquart. Despite being 58, he’s not particularly experienced in managing sides at this level of football, so is somewhat unproven.
Le Havre have also undergone a managerial change this season. American coach Bob Bradley is currently at the helm. His reign started in poor fashion, losing in the Coupe de France, but HAC registered their first victory under his stewardship last time out against Evian (3-2). Bradley is a naturally attack-minded coach which generally goes against the grain in French football. He likes pacey and technical footballers, something which he has an abundance of at the Normandy club. For this match, star striker Mathieu Duhamel is injured, although Ghislain Gimbert will still be extremely dangerous for them upfront. The key man for the visitors is winger Ousmane Cissokho. On his day, he can be one of the most dangerous players in Ligue 2 but his form this season has been extremely inconsistent. This is likely to be an open game of football between a couple of teams who like to attack – usually quite rare in French football. Let’s hope it proves to be an entertaining fixture.
Clermont Foot 63 vs Stade Lavallois Friday, 19.00 by @meatmansoccer
Clermont have gradually been making progress under the management of Corinne Diacre. There were a lot of sceptics when she took charge of the club but most were silenced after a solid first campaign. This season, she’s kicked on some more and Clermont might even be a dark horse to launch an unexpected promotion bid. They sit in seventh spot, but are only five points off the podium. Diacre has proven to be a strong home coach. Since she took charge, Clermont have only suffered four defeats in 28 matches at Le Stade Gabriel Montpied, all of which were to decent sides. She cannot yet generate a successful away formula but this stadium has become a surprising fortress. Without doubt, their key player this season has been striker Famara Diedhiou (13 goals), but his scoring run has gone dry in recent matches.
Travelling here are ultra cautious Laval. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict how they will approach this game. Laval are one of the most defensive minded ‘boring’ sides in Ligue 2 and they will always make themselves difficult to break down. All of their last three away games have ended 0-0 and if this match also ends goalless, they would be extremely happy. Laval don’t really have any stand-out players, although ex-Guingamp striker Rachid Alioui has been having a decent campaign for them. Midfielder Anthony Goncalves can also be fairly influential and is a consistent performer. Clermont will have to be patient in order to break down their opponents here, but if they could score early then it might develop into a more open match. There’s a chance Laval might be a little less focused than normal too, simply because Clermont aren’t a big name team.
FC Metz vs Dijon FCO Saturday, 13.00 by @jeremysmith98
Both Ligue 2 leaders Dijon and third-place Metz ended last weekend with their tails between their legs after being giant-killed in the Coupe de France, Dijon by Metz’s neighbours, CFA2’s Sarreguemines, and Metz by CFA’s Wasquehal. Both teams will look to get back to winning ways in a big clash which could have a big bearing on the teams’ promotion prospects.
Metz will hope to be the second Mosellan team to beat the Ligue 2 leaders in a week, but will need to improve on their recent form in order to do so. They have only one win in their last four league matches – although that win was a 5-0 thrashing of Bourg-en-Bresse in their last home match. As noted several times in these previews, the build-up has been OK but the finishing has consistently been a problem. There are signs of improvement, with Yeni Ngbakoto in excellent recent form and Emmanuel Mayuka beginning to bed in. The defence has recently been boosted, too, by the return from injury of the excellent Thomas Didillon in goal and Nuno Reis to partner Jose Palomino in central defence.
While it is Dijon’s imperious home form which has helped lift them to first place, their away form is a little more shaky, with only three wins away from the Stade Gaston Gerard and only 10 goals scored on the road – though three of them were scored in their most recent away trip, to Paris FC. The onus to score will be on the shoulders of Cape Verde striker Julio Tavares, while midfielder Frederic Sammaritano, one of the division’s most productive playmakers, with four goals and five assists to his name, will pull the strings as Olivier Dall’oglio’s team attempt to catch Metz on the break.
Sammaritano was on Thursday given a four-match suspended sentence for indulging in some online betting whilst at Auxerre. He may choose to steer clear of any wagers on this one, which is tough to call and may hinge on who gets the first goal.