Ligue 2: Week 21 – Preview
Dijon FCO v Bourg-en-Bresse: Friday 19:00 – @meatmansoccer
Dijon are unbeaten in six games and are still one of the firm promotion favourites, but a run of three draws in their last four has slightly hindered progress. They failed to break down a couple of resolute defences at home to Red Star and Auxerre (0-0), whilst last week they needed a late equaliser to rescue a point at Niort (2-2). Now of course, those results aren’t disastrous but one wonders whether les Rouges’ fans might start to get a little restless.
The reason for this is because Dijon have been in a similar position in recent seasons around the halfway stage, but failed to kick on and obtain an expected promotion. This year they seem better equipped, but this is the sort of match they need to return to winning ways in. The hosts have an issue at the back for this fixture. The duo of Cedric Varrault and Abdoulaye Bamba are both ruled out. These two have paired each other in all but three ligue fixtures this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how they adapt without them. On the positive side, big man Christophe Julien returns and his influence on the team can’t be underestimated.
This is probably one of the worst matches in which to have defensive concerns. Bourg-en-Bresse might be a very hit and miss team, but they have scored the second most goals out of anyone in the division. As it happens, Dijon are actually the highest scoring team, so this should be an entertaining contest. All the talk heading into the season was if star striker Pape Sane would be able to adapt to life in Ligue 2. Well, he’s scored nine goals so far which is an excellent return. The form of fellow striker Lakdar Boussaha has been even more encouraging. He’s netted 14 goals in all competitions and been playing brilliantly.
Bourg-en-Bresse’s attitude has to be commended this season. They’ve been positive in nearly every game, and for a team which everyone presumed would be relegation fodder, their current points tally is superb. Their defensive record has been terrible, but the promoted outfit are one of the few teams in this division who possess a major attacking threat. It’s that reason which makes them dangerous opposition for Dijon, even if one would ultimately expect the home team to outscore them here.
Stade Brestois v AS Nancy: Saturday 13:00 – @meatmansoccer
Nancy have started to stamp their authority on Ligue 2. The Lorraine side have won nine of their last 11 matches and now sit four points clear of Dijon in second. It’s a testament to their form this season that the bookies now consider them a slight odds-on shot away against Brest. That would’ve been unthinkable in recent years: Le Stade Francis le Ble is a renowned fortress. But the Breton outfit just haven’t fired this campaign, and as a result find themselves down as low as 11th.
Alex Dupont’s side have been nothing more than mediocre in every department and should be doing better considering the talent in their squad. That said, one of the main reasons for their failure this term has been at the back. Brest lost a number of key defenders during the summer. For example, the likes of Ismael Traore and Wilfried Moimbe have both made an accomplished move up to Ligue 1.
It was totally understandable their watertight backline would become less reliable. Things haven’t been helped by the loss to injury of key right back Gaetan Belaud since mid-November. He remains out, but new signing Vieux Sane should make his debut. The powerful Senegalese defender has been plying his trade in the Norwegian Tippeligaen for Bodo Glimt during the last two seasons. A powerful man, he should help stabilise the defence at this level of football. But this is a tough match against the table-toppers.
Nancy will usually dominate possession in all of their games, and their big strength this season has been a watertight defence. Pablo Correa’s men have only conceded 12 goals which is an excellent record, the bedrock to their success. With the likes of Maurice Dale and Anthony Robic having stellar seasons at the opposite end of the pitch, often it just takes one goal for Nancy to collect all three points. They’ve won five times by an exact 1-0 scoreline this season. With leading Brest goalscorer Youssef Adnane ruled out through illness, a similar sort of outcome is quite probable.
Valenciennes v FC Metz: Monday 19:30 – @FRfootballWillG
Valenciennes have been the Arsenal of Ligue 2 this season, with no fewer than 10 first team players injured before their trip to Auxerre last weekend. Amazingly, they managed a 1-1 draw and were only denied a precious win by a late equaliser, but this did nothing to help their current plight. Without a win since the 23rd of October, David Le Frapper was relieved of his duties as first-team coach over Christmas and is now set to work in the reserve set up, while his assistant Nicolas Rabuel has been appointed on an interim basis. They are, incredibly, only in 15th place despite not registering a home win this season, though without Nimes’ points deduction and Paris FC’s woeful form they would surely be in the bottom three. Summer signing from relegated Chateauroux Sebastien Roudet has been injured since his arrival, while other key men Edouard Butin and Opa N’Guette have struggled to stay fit, leaving them with little up front. Valenciennes are in desperate need of their first home win but in the absence of much firepower they may fall short.
Metz also have a new manager. Club legend Philippe Hinschberger has replaced Jose Riga (now back at Charlton, bizarrely) at the helm and he started his tenure with a much-needed win against Sochaux on Monday. Hinschberger massively shook the squad up, introducing Samy Kehli and Sergey Krivets into the XI, with reserve player Fadil Sido coming off the bench to set up Moustapha Kabore for the winner. Metz’s squad is light years away from what it was this time last year, making it painfully more evident how crucial it is that they bounce back to Ligue 1 and replicate some of their early season form. The far from prolific Christian Bekamenga, formerly of Lens, has been signed until the end of the season from Troyes with more arrivals expected in the coming two weeks. Metz have been handed consecutive Monday night televised matches and Hinschberger will be confident of securing the three points once again.