Coupe de France 2017 32emes – Friday

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It’s the 100th edition of the Coupe de France and the ninth round / 32emes / round of 64 is the traditional way to restart French football after the winter break. Things kick off on Friday night with three matches, including high-flying Monaco against AC Ajaccio, and two potentially tight encounters between teams just one division apart.

Monaco (L1) – AC Ajaccio (L2)

It’s a mainland v island derby which sees Monaco host Ajaccio and for fans and players of the Corsican side they will travel to the principality fearing the worst.

The reason for that: well in case you hadn’t been paying attention to Ligue 1, Monaco have turned into a monstrous goalscoring outfit. 56 goals in only 19 league games prior to the winter break meant Leonardo Jardim’s side finished the first half of the season just one goal shy of last season’s total. To add to the mild panic for Ajaccio is the fact that goals have come from 15 different players so far this season and with Monaco keen not to let their loss to Lyon in the penultimate game before Christmas break their spirit, it could turn into a long night for the Ligue 2 side.

Trying to prevent this from turning into an utter goal-fest, Ajaccio will be looking to a Mandanda in Riffi, Steve’s younger brother. However with Monaco having scored 50 goals at home across league and cup and only two other sides in Ligue 2 having conceded more than Ajaccio, Mandanda junior may want to call upon Steve to give a helping hand in goal. If Olivier Pantaloni’s side are to secure anything close to a “Coupe-set” then he’ll need his players to shake off two disappointing defeats prior to the break, including a 4-1 loss in the Ajaccio derby against Gazelec. Outfield players to keep a watch for are top scorers Moussa Maazou and Riad Nouri who have eight goals and four assists between them.

Whilst the cup romantics always want to see upsets, it’s hard to see them getting their wish in this tie.

Avranches (Nat) – Laval (L2)

Stade Laval are 18th in Ligue 2, fired their manager in November, and have some tough fixtures in the offing as they search for safety, so Avranches should be feeling rather positive about this. They’ve certainly enjoyed their cup run so far, scoring 20 goals in their first three matches against various 6th and 7th-tier sides, before a narrower 2-1 win away at CFA2’s Vannes in the last round.

Avranches have several young players in on loan from professional clubs, including a couple with youth caps for France, and some capable older heads: Christopher Mayulu and Ibrahim Sangare both have half a dozen league goals. Laval don’t look likely to go big on this – they are joint-lowest for goals in the league (14), and will also be without central defender Aaron Appindangoyé who is off to AFCON for Gabon – so a home win looks like a decent bet.

Les Herbiers (Nat) – GFC Ajaccio (L2)

The Red Devils of Vendée Les Herbiers reached the 16emes of the cup in 2000 before being knocked out by Rennes; since then they have made the post-Christmas stage twice, but not progressed further again. They are in their second season in the third division, where they sit mid-table, but have already seen off Ligue 2 opposition, beating Orleans on penalties in the seventh round.

Gazelec burned brightly but briefly in their Ligue 1 season in 2015/16, but are now 13th in Ligue 2 and were in shaky form going into the winter break – although they did win the Ajaccio derby with a comprehensive 4-1 win over ACA. Topscorers Yoann Court and Robert Maah both scored in that, and will be looking to continue the run against their highest-ranked opponents so far. This could be one of the closer encounters of the round.

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