Preview: Coupe de la Ligue – Last 16
We have reached the last 16 of the Coupe de la Ligue – eight fixtures, with smaller clubs looking to find a way into Europe outside of the unpredictability of the season in Ligue 1. Four Ligue 2 sides are left in the competition, but they all face Ligue 1 opposition.
The games are spread over two days, with coverage on France 2 , 3, 4 and BT Sport.
Lille OSC v Stade Lavallois: 19:00
Frederic Antonetti has had an instant impact at Lille since replacing Herve Renard. Saturday’s 3-0 win at home to Lorient gives the Corsican boss nine points from his four games in charge, and Tuesday gives him a chance to progress in the league cup – a trophy that Lille have never won.
Although they are only seven points behind Caen in fourth, the cups could represent the best chance Les Dogues have of returning to European football – but this is not the time to get carried away.
Opponents Laval are not enjoying the best of times. With only one win in the last six games, this cup run could provide an escape from their poor league form. Sitting mid-table, they will not be thinking of relegation, but with only two wins in 10 attempts away from home, Denis Zanko’s men will start the game as underdogs.
In contrast to LOSC’s lack of success in this competition, Les Tangos can always hark back to the two triumphs they enjoyed in the 1980s.
Lille are without Mike Maignan and Marko Basa through injury and summer signing Sehrou Guirassy won’t be able to face his old side as he is suspended. It’s the striker’s replacement that Lille will have to worry about, with Rachid Alioui scoring seven goals in 18 games this season. If Lille can stop the Guingamp loanee, they will have a great chance of reaching the next round.
EA Guingamp v OGC Nice: 19:00
Depending on your preferred cliché, this cup tie is either a welcome break or an unwanted distraction for Jocelyn Gouvernnec’s Guingamp side, who ended the weekend in the relegation zone. Their defeat at Montpellier was their fourth straight reverse and whilst this match is a chance for the cup specialists to have a respite from the league struggles, top flight survival is clearly the priority. With Jeremy Sorbon and Nicolas Benezet (after his two needless bookings in six minutes vs Montpellier) suspended and Jimmy Briand out injured, Guingamp may struggle to bring cup cheer.
Nice are not in the best of form themselves. After some scintillating early-season performances, things have slowed somewhat, Valère Germain’s goal in the 1-1 draw at Reims at the weekend was their first in four matches, and they are winless since putting Lyon to the sword almost a month ago. Les Aiglons qualified for this stage with a very fortunate win at Caen and would be happy to leave northern France with a quarter final place in the bag, their mercurial team arguably perfectly set up for a good cup run this season.
FC Lorient v Dijon FCO: 19:00
Tuesday’s match gives Ligue 2 promotion hopefuls Dijon another opportunity to match themselves against a team that they may well be facing in the top flight next season. Lorient will, however, see a home match against lower league opposition as a great chance to make cup progress.
Lorient come into the match off the back of a heavy defeat at in-form Lille – only their second reverse in 11 matches. Sylvain Ripoll’s men will be pleased to return to the home comforts of the Moustoir and, while strikers Benjamins Moukando and Jeannot are in good form, les Merlus will also have the returning Majid Waris available, after his spectacular temper-tantrum versus Guingamp which earned him a six-match ban.
Dijon have been giant-killer and -killed this season, knocking out Reims in the last round of the Coupe de la Ligue but going down to Sarreguemines in the Coupe de France. They bounced back from that defeat to beat promotion rivals Metz last weekend, and come into this match first (on goals scored) in Ligue 2. This match will be a great chance for the likes of Julio Tavares and Christopher Jullien to show they have the pedigree to match Ligue 1 opponents. They may struggle, however, at a ground where the hosts have lost only twice all season.
Stade Rennais v Toulouse FC: 20:00
Tuesday night’s feature game is a tough meeting to predict. Rennes enjoy the healthier league position, sitting 10th with 24 points, but they haven’t won any of their last five games.
Dominique Arribage was a coach under pressure, and although Toulouse are still 19th, two wins and a draw over their last four games has them on 16 points and only three from safety.
Rennes should still be expected to advance, mostly due to the limitations of Le Téfécé’s squad and the importance that comes with them keeping their Ligue 1 existence. Rennes on the other hand may feel that this is their one chance to reach the hallowed ground of European football. Philippe Montanier’s side are consistently inconsistent. From beating Angers away from home to draws against Bordeaux and Reims, it’s impossible to predict what you are going to get.
Montanier has used 27 different players in around six different systems. Injuries haven’t helped, but the former Real Sociedad coach is his own worst enemy. This cup could be his retribution; he might need it to be.
Girondins de Bordeaux v AS Monaco: 16:00
Four points from their last two games fail to mask the problems Bordeaux have faced this season. Willy Sagnol is a manager under pressure seemingly week in week out as his side sit only three points from the relegation zone. The Coupe de le Ligue could therefore prove the welcome distraction that a disappointing Europa League jaunt failed to be. In search of positives for Bordeaux, it’s the front three of Diego Rolan, Enzo Crivelli and Wahbi Khazri that will be looked upon to provide the spark and goal threat. However all three are prone to severe bouts of inconsistency. It could be another disappointing evening for fans of les Girondins.
Monaco, as with last season, have started to go about business in a very quiet albeit effective manner. They were one of many sides who found the going tough in the early stages of the season but have gone on to lose just one match since the end of September; ironically it was a 3-1 defeat in Bordeaux. Slowly but surely it’s starting to feel like Leonardo Jardim is getting close to understanding his first choice XI after a huge influx and outflux of personnel in the summer. As the side settles it’s no coincidence results and performances are improving with recent hard-fought wins over Bastia and Saint-Etienne helping the side from the principality up to 3rd in the table. As with Bordeaux, Monaco may also want to give the Cup more of a focus after a poor Europa League campaign but unlike their opponents, they have the squad size to bring in fresh but still talented players.
With Monaco in decent form of late, it’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of the 3-1 Bordeaux victory of early November with the very reverse scoreline looking more probable.
Bourg-en-Bresse v Olympique de Marseille: 17:45
As the only one of the four Ligue 2 sides left in the Coupe de la Ligue to have home advantage, Bourg en Bresse will prove to be tricky opponents for an inconsistent Marseille. The second tier side have proved to be something of a surprise package in the league this season as despite sitting in 10th, they remain only four points off an automatic promotion spot. Having seen off fellow Ligue 2 sides Brest and Nancy in the opening two rounds by way of penalty shootouts, they went one better in the 3rd round and only needed 120 minutes to see off Ligue 1 Nantes. Whilst Pape Sane and Jason Berthomier have been their stand out players in the league, Lakdar Boussaha and his four goals have been the difference in this tournament.
For Marseille, they come into the game perhaps breathing a sigh of relief this fixture is being played away from the Velodrome. Their home ground has not been a happy hunting ground with only two league wins all season. Michel seems to get the best out of players without the baying and vociferous home support. Slowly but surely he is steadying the ship and with goals from Michy Batshuayi, the pace of Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and the battling Lassana Diarra, Marseille should have enough to see off a determined underdog. However if they underestimate the home side then Bourg en Bresse are just the kind of team who will be only too happy to punish them. It will need to be a very professional performance from Marseille if they are to progress.
Olympique Lyonnais v Tours FC: 19:00
Lyon will be looking to bounce back from an embarrassing 5-1 trouncing at Parc des Princes on Sunday, but they will be facing a determined opponent who have already seen off Ligue 1 opposition, beating Angers 1-0 in the third round.
Currently 13th in Ligue 2, they beat relegation candidates Sochaux (how times have changed) in the second round, both wins coming at home. They have no stand-out striker (Christian Kouakou has four), but have on-loan Nice ultra Alexy Bosetti on hand, who could make things interesting.
Lyon, meanwhile, are sixth in Ligue 1 and after a heartening if largely academic win away at Valencia in their last Champions League game, would probably dearly love to rest some first teamers for this and concentrate on their trip to Ajaccio for the last game before the winter break. However, their injury list is such that unless they actually just play the U17s, there is already little room for manoeuvre and – AND – this will be their last match at the Gerland.
Angers stymied the celebrations planned for the last league match at the iconic stadium by winning 2-0, and Gent ditto for the last European match (2-1) – surely, OL won’t do the treble as they say farewell to Gerland? Fournier’s position is looking shaky, and the need to balance avoiding embarrassment here and getting three points at the weekend with a thin squad could be tricky, but Lyon should have enough to go through.
Paris Saint-Germain v Saint-Etienne: 20:00
With Ligue 1 sewn up and the Champions League still in the Singer, you might think that PSG would not be too bothered about the Coupe de la Ligue. However, with their league dominance almost take as read, last season Chief Exec Nasser Al-Khelaifi was focussed on pulling off the domestic treble, and this season may not be much different.
They host St Etienne, currently seventh in the league and through to the Europa knock-out stages, who might be more bothered about their league match against Angers than a cup game. With Robert Beric out for the season they are casting around for a striker who can score goals, but then there is always Romain Hamouma.
This looks for all the world like a routine win for the Parisiens, although they may put out something approaching a B-team in anticipation of a tricky trip to Caen before Christmas. PSG’s B-team is still somewhat formidable, however, and Salvatore Sirigu could be in goal rather than Kevin Trapp, so with St Etienne not a massive attacking force, no favours can be expected. PSG should still be in a four-trophy chase when we reach January.