Preview: Sarre-Union vs Lorient – Coupe de France
With big names such as Metz, Nancy and Strasbourg already out, lowly Sarre-Union are left to represent the Alsace-Lorraine region in the Round of 16 of the Coupe de France, as they host Ligue 1’s Lorient.
One of three fourth-tier CFA teams remaining in the competition, Sarre-Union reached this stage with an impressive win over Ligue 2 side Chamois Niortais in the last round, Vianney Schermann scoring a 90th minute winner at a snowy Stade Omnisports to help fulfil coach Eric Becker’s pre-match prediction that “we’ll smash them 1-0 in the final minute”.
The team’s cup run – the best in their history – is a welcome relief and a stark contrast to their league form: they currently prop up the rest of the CFA Group B, with only three wins all season. They are winless in eight and most recently lost at home to 10-man Auxerre B. However, they remain in touch with those above them and the league remains a priority. As Schermann points out, “given the choice I’d rather go out in style against Lorient and avoid relegation from the CFA, no doubt about it”. Becker agrees, saying “I hope my players realise that relegation to CFA2 would make it a rotten season, whatever the result [against Lorient]”. At the same time, he wants his players to relish the occasion: “they must let it all out, have no regrets. Above all, this is a celebration, for the players and the club. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine reaching this stage.”
It is unlikely that Lorient will be relishing the trip east and they would have been hoping for some home comfort, after struggling to a 3-1 win at Boulogne in the last round, Benjamin Jeannot saving them with two extra time goals. Les Merlus sit in twelfth place in Ligue 1, but only five points above the relegation zone – a little too close for total comfort. And although capable of playing great football on their day, they can be extremely inconsistent (after three back-to-back wins in September, they have failed to win two on the trot since). Their last three matches have fittingly been a win, a loss and a draw (last weekend, 1-1 at home to Montpellier). New signing Jimmy Cabot scored but will start on the bench tonight, captain Yann Jouffre is rested entirely and François Bellugou will sit it out after his weekend sending off.
Lorient have struggled for goals recently, with top scorer Benjamin Moukandjo goalless since late November, while their defence has been too porous – only Ligue 1’s bottom two have conceded more. For all Sarre-Union’s travails, Schermann, Yann Benedick and Jean-Philippe Dje have scored 30 goals in all competitions between them this year. If they can grab a lead to cling on to, with a capacity 3,000 crowd roaring them on, they could make life very difficult for Lorient.