Preview: Sochaux vs Monaco – Coupe de France
Distractions, distractions – both teams here may be wondering if a cup run falls into the category ‘good thing’ or ‘bad thing’, but for rather different reasons.
Sochaux are languishing in 19th place in Ligue 2, and their supporters are writing open letters to voice their concerns about the new owners who arrived in the summer, Chinese LED-manufacturers Ledus (not the same Chinese LED-manufacturers who’ve started sponsoring the Segunda Liga in Portugal, by the way – another Chinese LED-manufacturer). Far from lighting up Ligue 2 after their relegation in 2014, they are above only Paris FC at the bottom of the table after giving up the lead to lose 2-1 on Friday to Red Star.
As the transfer window has now closed, and lack of investment from the investors is a key element of the supporters’ criticism, a cup run should fall into ‘good thing’ for FCSM. However the prospect of relegation to the National is something to concentrate the mind, and the run has been hard work. They needed extra time in their first two matches to see off National’s Strasbourg and then Ligue 2’s Nancy, had an easier time against CFA2 Pagny-sur-Moselle winning 2-0 away, then needed a 91st-minute winner from Raphaël Caceres to beat SC Bastia in the 16emes. With Nancy second in the table only on goal difference, Sochaux have arguably pulled off two cupsets already, but their next opponents will be an even sterner test.
For Monaco, their league focus has a much more positive flavour. They are still not completely convincing, drawing at home to Gazelec and losing 3-0 to Angers recently, but they are six points clear in second place after winning the derby against Nice at the weekend. New arrival Vagner Love looked isolated in attack, but the defence held firm, particularly after Nabil Dirar was sent off early in the second half, and Tiémoué Bakayoko chose a good match for his debut goal for ASM, with a glancing header from a freekick ten minutes from time. Overall, they showed better organisation than their visitors who had most of the ball and did more with it, but couldn’t find their free-scoring side from the start of the season.
In the cup, Monaco started the year with a 10-2 hammering of DHR side St-Jean-Beaulieu, featuring a four-goal-first-half haul from Lacina Traore swiftly followed by a red card for an altercation at half-time; this was put in some context by needing extra time to see off Ligue 2’s Evian 3-1 in the 16emes, with goals from Mario Pasalic and Helder Costa in the added minutes after Traore opened the scoring. This could be another start for Love, and possibly a chance for fellow January signing Jemerson to put in an appearance in defence. Monaco have a tricky away trip to Saint-Etienne at the weekend, but will have a day’s more rest than the fourth-place team.
Sochaux’s main problem is scoring goals – with 19 in the league, only Paris have fewer – so they seem unlikely to be able to spring a surprise there; and while their defence has been reasonably solid, even an occasionally misfiring Monaco attack should be able to take advantage. ASM are understandably clear favourites here, and if they don’t win it will definitely be a cupset.
Sochaux : Werner, Prévot – Teikeu, Gibaud, Faussurier, Fuchs – Tardieu, Ilaimaharitra, Martin, Guerbert, Daham, François – Caceres, Cissé, Toko Ekambi, Thuram, Robinet, Sao, Mbombo, Sacko.
Monaco : Subasic, Nardi, Sy – Carvalho, Fabinho, Raggi, Jemerson, Toure, Wallace – Bahlouli, Bakayoko, Costa, Lemar, Moutinho, Pasalic, Silva, Tirard – Carillo, Love, Chaibi