FC Lorient v Gazelec Ajaccio: Coupe de France Preview
in the opening pair of quarter-finals, there is an all-Ligue 1 clash between FC Lorient and Gazelec Ajaccio, hoping to outdo their league colleagues Saint-Etienne and PSG later on.
Lorient needed extra time in both of their first two cup matches, at home to Ligue 2 Tours and away at National’s Boulogne, both times having Benjamin Jeannot to thank for their progression as he got the winner against Tours to make it 3-2, and an added-time brace against Boulogne for 3-1. He got another brace in the more routine 4-0 win away at CFA side Sarre-Union in the last round, with Moryke Fofana and Maxime Barthelme getting the others. Those five goals make Jeannot the joint top-scorer in the competition so far – and Lorient’s second top-scorer this season on eleven; interestingly their top performer Benjamin Moukandjo has scored all his dozen goals in the league. That won’t change tonight as he is out injured.
Gazelec cruised through the first two rounds beating DH side Sainte-Marie 2-0 and then Guingamp 3-0 with a hat-trick from Khalid Boutaib. Their biggest test was in the last round against Saint Malo as, with GFC in some trouble after their impressive unbeaten streak in the league ended, the CFA side opened the scoring before Kevin Mayi and Boutaib made it 2-1 in the second half.
Lorient are tenth in the league and while the vagaries of the table this season mean they are only five points off third, the midtable region is so crowded it seems unlikely that this will be a route to glory. Sylvain Ripoll can therefore afford to focus wholly on this match before his side travel to Bastia at the weekend. FCL won this competition back in 2002, despite being relegated to Ligue 2 the same season, beating Bastia 1-0 with a goal from Jean-Claude Darcheville (later of Rangers); in each of the last two seasons they’ve been giant-killed in the first round, by AS Yzeure and US Avranches, so their supporters are fully behind this run. Yrondu Musavu-King and Didier Ndong are back in the group, but they are missing Moukandjo and Fofana injured, amongst others, and rightback Lamine Gassama is suspended.
Bang back in trouble after that great run at the end of 2015, Gazelec have a game in hand but that is against successful travellers Marseille (to be played 9 March), before which they travel to Bordeaux, and afterwards welcome Caen, the moved match meaning that they will be playing four games in ten days. GFC’s best performance in the cup was a semi-final appearance in 2012, when they were in the National, losing 4-0 to Lyon who went on to beat Quevilly in the final. While the cup run has been a positive, now they are four points from safety, and with a small squad, Thierry Laurey may be ruefully looking at this game – and the Corsican weather that forced the Marseille game to be moved – as a bitter inconvenience. To make matters worse, a number of players are understood to be unavailable, including Touré, Sylla, Bréchet, and Martinez in defence, and Youga and Pujol further forward. Laurey’s options will therefore be limited.
Things augur well for there to be goals in this match, as Lorient let them in as carefreely as they score – here’s hoping for Jeannot and Boutaib to trade hat-tricks in a seven-goal thriller. But the odds are understandably in Lorient’s favour (21/50 to progress, indicative) and this one shouldn’t need extra time.
Lorient : Lecomte, Chaigneau – Paye, Rose, Touré, Musavu-King, Bellugou, Le Goff, Guerreiro – Barthelmé, Cabot, Mesloub, Ndong, Mulumba, Philippoteaux – Jeannot, Waris, Traoré