Coupe de la Ligue – Wednesday Preview
As we wait for the European teams to get involved, the seiziemes are again the dixiemes in the Coupe de la Ligue, with a cast of fourteen Ligue 1 teams joining four from Ligue 2 and two from National over a midweek bonus round.
Chateauroux v Girondins de Bordeaux – 18.45 CEST (Canal+ Sport)
One of only two third-tier teams left in the competition, Chateauroux pulled off something of a surprise in the last round beating (then) Bob Bradley’s Le Havre 5-2 away, including a hat-trick from 19-year-old Jean-Philippe Mateta. Currently sitting fourth in National, Michel Estevan’s men will be looking to to spring another upset with home advantage against a Bordeaux team winless in four games.
GDB’s results so far have been a confusing mix of impressive wins (over Saint-Etienne and Lyon), bewildering losses (Toulouse, Angers) and stuttering draws (recent) so with an away trip to Marseille to contend with at the weekend their thoughts may be elsewhere. Cedric Carrasso and Jeremy Menez are out after picking up injuries in the 1-1 draw to Nancy, but this seems a fine time to change things up for Jocelyn Gourvennec in any event.
Expect to see a Bordeaux mostly-B team still having enough to see off third-tier opposition, but it might not be all plain sailing.
Chateauroux : Souchaud, Pillot – Samnick, Mbone, C. Traore, Fofana, Djouaher – Sangante, Altama, Khadda, Raineau, Blanc, Merghem, Chergui, Heloise – Lebrun, Boukari, I. Traore
Bordeaux : Prior, Bernardoni – Sabaly, Gajic, Poundjé, Contento, Pallois, Lewczuk – Sertic Toulalan, Plasil, Vada, Traoré, Ounas – Kamano, Kiese Thelin, Malcom, Romil
Clermont Foot v Olympique de Marseille – 21.05 CEST (Canal+ Sport)
Ligue 2’s Clermont are in a bit of a dip right now after a five-game unbeaten run saw them up in sixth; they are now 14th and winless in six and clearly rather missing Famara Diedhiou (now at Angers) upfront. Corinne Diacre’s team have half-a-dozen players out through injury and suspension, including Eugène Ekobo and Joseph Lopy which combines to put a hole in defensive midfield, so have called up a couple of reserves.
It’s all change at OM, meanwhile, under new ownership and with Rudi Garcia taking over from the increasingly beleaguered Franck Passi on the touchline. They may have broken all sorts of records in not having a single shot against PSG at the Parc des Princes on Sunday evening, but came away with a point and an unexpectedly solid defensive performance, obvious ungiven penalty notwithstanding.
Garcia’s approach in that match was clearly potential damage limitation, which paid off, and he will presumably seek to get OM playing a more attacking and free-flowing style in future, but whether he tries that here, or waits for Bordeaux at the weekend, will be interesting. Clermont don’t look a particularly frightening foe, so he may consider giving his team their heads to go for it a little more; but he has to balance that with the fact that an upset here could cause further unrest and nerves.
OM should prevail.
Clermont : Caillard, Hostis – Agounon, Avinel, Djellabi, Fontaine, Laporte, Rivieyran – Guerbert, Jobello, Magnesse, Busin, Centonze, Espinosa – Pereira-Lage, Ajorque, Guilavogui, Thiam
Marseille : Samba, Pele – Sakai, Doria, Rekik, Rolando, Bedimo, Hubican, Fanni – Diarra, Khaoui, Machach, Anguissa, Lopez – Alessandrini, Sarr, Gomis, Leya Iseka, Thauvin
Also at 21.05 CEST :
SC Bastia v EA Guingamp
Bastia made the final of the Coupe de la Ligue in 2015, which wasn’t a massively happy experience as they lost 4-0 to PSG. Currently 15th in Ligue 1, they host Dijon at the weekend, which looks eminently winnable, but might well fancy another cup run. With a variety of young and mostly on-loan attacking talent available, they have options up-front, and the traditionally intimidating home crowd will also be a factor.
Guingamp are perhaps unexpectedly up in fifth, following Kipling’s maxim “if you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs…“, and having tasted cup glory in the 2014 Coupe de France campaign (and a decent showing in the Europa League thereafter) might be expected to have a proper go at this. The squad however has a long list in the ‘choix d’entraineur’ section, and they only list four defenders, so it looks like the league is definitely the focus.
Given EAG’s selection decisions, Bastia’s shorter odds look reasonable.
Bastia : Leca, Vincensini, Marange, Peybernes, Squillaci, Bengtsson, Camara, Cahuzac, Mostefa, Coulibaly, Danic, Diallo, Keita, Bifouma, Nangis, Saint Maximin, Acheampong, Cabral
Guingamp : Johnsson, Salin – Ikoko, Angoua, Lévêque, Martins Pereira – Sankoh, Diallo, Giresse, Blas – De Pauw, Privat, Mendy, Mané, Livolant
Dijon FCO v FC Sochaux
Newly-promoted Dijon will be pretty pleased with how things are going in Ligue 1 so far, as after a slightly shaky start that saw them pick up four points from the first six games they have eight from the last four to put them in 13th. They host the reasonably recently demoted Sochaux who are in the middle of another attempt to get back up to the big time, and lie 6th in Ligue 2. They beat Brest 2-0 in the last round, getting the second from the penalty spot after SB29 went down to ten men.
This could be a pretty tight encounter, and might be a good shout for penalties.
Stade Rennais v FC Lorient
After conceding an injury-time winner away at Dijon at the weekend Sylvain Ripoll has been relieved of his command at Lorient and they are unlikely to have a new manager (currently listed as ‘AAA’ on the L’Equipe website) by the time they head to Rennes. Everyone who’s anyone is being linked with Ligue 1’s lanterne rouge as they travel to sixth-place Rennes who may be basking in the glow of a win in a / the Breton derby at the weekend, where they won away at Nantes 2-1.
Form and home advantage suggest a reasonably comfortable win for Rennes.
Paris FC v FC Metz
The other National side left in it don’t look in the best nick in the world league-wise, lying in 13th, and they have just been knocked out of the Coupe de France 2-0 by CFA side Fleury-Merogis. They beat Lens on penalties in the last round to get to this stage after prevailing in the Paris derby (also on penalties) in the first round.
Meanwhile Metz lie in twelfth as even 3 defeats in a row (conceded 12 scored 2) haven’t dented their decent start to the season, and Paris certainly aren’t at the goalscoring level of Monaco or Nice. If it does come to penalties then young keeper Thomas Didillon may relish the chance to show his worth, which recent scorelines don’t properly represent.
Expect Metz to get back to winning ways here, although given some of their recent defending there could be some good gifs in it.
AS Nancy-Lorraine v SM Caen
In the what-the-hell-why-not match-up of the round, Ligue 1’s 19th play 18th on an artificial pitch so who knows what will happen here. Will they care? Will it rain? Will anyone other than Ivan Santini score a goal? They play again on Saturday night which will presumably be the focus for both managers.
In our traditional jinx, this looks ripe to end goalless.
Toulouse FC v AJ Auxerre
The minds-on-other-things derby sees fourth in Ligue 1 take on 19th in Ligue 2 and this is ripe for a range of TFC youth players to get a run out and for Pascal Dupraz to break out some more quality knitwear. With young promise such as Odsonne Edouard and Alexis Blin in the squad, it could be a very young Toulouse team that starts for this one. Issa Diop and Martin Braithwaite are both suspended.
Auxerre’s squad is the youngest on average in Ligue 2, so this could resemble a youth league match-up, their squad peppered with promising names such as Alexandre Vincent and Florian Aye, with the occasional grizzled stalwart (