Coupe De France Seiziemes Part II – Rennes v PSG and Prix-lès-Mézières have their eyes on the prize
The Coupe de France continues with the round of 32 featuring thirteen teams from outside the top two leagues, including three matches where those teams face each other, so we are assured some lower-league representation in the next round. After Tuesday’s Olympico, the big game of day 2 is Rennes v PSG. We’ve already had a cupset as CFA side Bergerac beat Ligue 2’s Lens yesterday – will there be another surprise this evening?
Fréjus-Saint-Raphaël (CFA) – Prix-lès-Mézières (CFA2)
Fourth tier meets fifth on Wednesday as two CFA sides face off, both eyeing a great opportunity to meet a big name in the next round. Hosts Fréjus reached this stage with an impressive 2-1 win at Grenoble, surviving playing 40 minutes with 10 men (after Belony Dumas’ sending-off) to come through thanks to Mohamed Soly’s late penalty.
Relegated from the National at the end of last season, coach Charles Paquille’s team are challenging for an immediate return, and currently sitting in third place – although they have lost both league matches since their Coupe progression. With the kind of detail that only the smaller clubs provide, the club website’s news that the team went out for a team-bonding tenpin bowling session on Friday, will hopefully have helped put them in a good frame of mind for the match.
Standing in their way are Prix-lès-Mézières, for whom Muharrem Aktas’ fantastic last minute free kick winner secured a 2-1 victory over Feignies-Aulnoye and much excitement in the stands at the Stade du Petit Bois. Also third in their league and also winless in the league in 2017 (to be fair, they’ve only played one match), Farid Fouzari’s men are hoping for a second straight promotion but know that progress in the knock-out competition is more likely to see them hit the headlines. Another last-minute wondergoal winner would guarantee them that.
Auxerre (Ligue 2) – Saint-Etienne (Ligue 1)
Auxerre – finalists two years ago and winners twice in the mid-noughties – take on Saint-Etienne – six-time winners who have not won the trophy for 40 years, and not reached the final for 35.
AJA, for so long Ligue 1 perennials, have been in the doldrums for a few years now and currently find themselves second-bottom of Ligue 2. An impressive 1-0 win at Clermont last week, featuring new loan signing Mohamed Yattara’s debut goal, ensured that the Bourgignons don’t come into this match as the lanterne rouge; however, Auxerre’s January has been disrupted by much off-field politicking surrounding the appointment or not as coach of legendary (nb: as player – not as coach) Jean-Pierre Papin. Eventually ‘or not’ prevailed, and Cédric Daury remains in situ, but morale clearly needs lifting at the Abbé-Deschamps and a big Coupe scalp would help.
Saint-Etienne are doing what they do best, having a standardly unspectacular but efficient season; they are sitting in the position that they know best – fifth – and are coming off a 3-0 win at Toulouse where Nolan Roux did what he does best (score penalties). Europa League entry through the league looks likely again but the fans are crying out for the bit of excitement that comes with a good Coupe run. The thing is, les Verts have the derby against Lyon coming up this weekend. So does Christophe Galtier play his best team, or keep them fresh for Sunday? The answer to this question may determine both teams’ chances on Wednesday evening.
Auxerre have scored 4 in their last two ties (the second after extra time in beating Troyes 4-2), and Saint-Etienne put four past their opponents in the last round – lowly Croix. The chances of either side matching that figure this time round are slim, but this could nevertheless be a great match.
CA Bastia (National) – Nancy (Ligue 1)
CAB had a tough time of it last time out at DH side Hauts Lyonnais, in a game that ended goalless after 120 minutes before the third-tier side won on penalties. Nancy had a more standard 3-0 win at CFA2’s Besancon with first-half goals from Youssouf Hadji, Antony Robic and Karim Coulibaly.
The Corsicans are currently eighth in National, and on a shaky run of form, so will be hoping that home advantage will help them here as they seek a cupset. This seems unlikely. Nancy will be looking to bounce back from a rather gutting and mostly-the-result-of-an-OG-from-the-usually-dependable-Joffrey-Cuffaut defeat at home to Bordeaux last weekend. And the rather gutting and mostly-the-result-of-a-complete-rick-from-Guy-Ndy-Assembé defeat at Monaco in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final. Before then, ASNL were unbeaten in seven, so while the league must be the focus – and they are away at Nantes next, which looks eminently do-able – they will be looking to get back to winning ways. This one seems likely to go with the form-book.
Angers (Ligue 1) – Caen (Ligue 1)
A top-flight face-off that could well make you drop off sees Angers host Caen, with neither team having a particularly happy time of things in the league, sitting in 16th and 18th respectively. In the last round, both had away trips to lower-league opponents, and Caen had the more convincing win, 3-0 against CFA2’s Sainte-Genevieve, with a brace from Ronny Rodelin and a third from Ivan Santini. Angers went a goal down to CFA’s Granville, before an own goal levelled it for them, and Dickson Nwakaeme – a little-used free agent they picked up in the summer – got the winner.
His appearance on the pitch is indicative of Angers’ biggest problem right now, which is their attack. Injuries have been exacerbated by the absence of four players at AFCON, including forwards Famara Diedhiou and Karl Toko Ekambi, and captain Cheikh N’Doye; unhelpfully they all play for pretty good teams so are either still there or unlikely to be available to start. ASCO have brought in Kevin Berigaud on loan from Montpellier and Jonathan Bamba ditto from Saint-Etienne, but Stephane Moulin still ended up playing centre-back Mateo Pavlovic up-front against les Verts. He did score, to be fair, but that’s probably not a long-term option.
Caen, on the other hand, are scoring a decent amount but shipping goals like nobody’s business, and not just to the big guns (for example conceding four to both Nancy and Lille), and their away form in the league is terrible, where they are joint last with Lorient with only two points.
At the weekend both faced fellow relegation-battlers, Angers beating nine-man Metz 2-1 with goals from Flavien Tait and Nicolas Pepe, with Ismael Traore chipping in with an OG for the visitors; Caen got a tricky point away at Bastia, Rodelin equalising from the penalty spot after Alain Saint-Maximin’s glorious opener.
Both teams will be eyeing the next round of league fixtures with concern (away against Toulouse and Guingamp respectively) so this could be a match where both coaches play weakened sides and just hope their weakness is less than their opponents’.
Les Herbiers (National) – Guingamp (Ligue 1)
Third-tier Les Herbiers are on a roll in the cup having already seen off Ligue 2 sides Orleans and Gazelec Ajaccio in the last two rounds, and the last match was a seven-goal thriller as they won 4-3. They made this stage in the competition in 2000 before being knocked out by Rennes – now they will seek to go further, facing another top-flight side.
Guingamp beat Le Havre 2-1 in the last round with goals from Moustapha Diallo and Jimmy Briand – their first, and last, win in 2017 as they lost a league cup quarter final to Bordeaux, and have then taken one point from three league games, including losing to Lorient. While EAG’s quality should show, their hosts will at least look to make this a contest.
Chambly-Oise (National) – Monaco (Ligue 1)
It’s not quite Sutton vs Arsenal but Chambly vs Monaco is a dream tie for the home team, plying their trade in the National, who currently sit 45 places behind their visitors and current Ligue 1 leaders Monaco.
Currently sixth in the National (though level on points with third and with a game in hand on all those above), Chambly have, due to postponements, played only two matches in 2017 – both 2-0 away wins, the first of which put paid to Lunéville in the last round of the Coupe, goals coming from Gendrey and an own goal from Poirot (which did not appear to cross the line) in a match that also featured a worldy of a save from Lunéville’s ex-Nancy keeper Bracigliano and a hilarious penalty miss from Chambly’s Samir Benmeziane.
Coach Bruno Lizi says that there is no pressure on their players and that, since the tie falls between two important league matches, the club won’t even be able to get too distracted by the match. He observed that “they have the best attack in Europe, but our defence isn’t bad”.
How many of that great attack lines up on Wednesday remains to be seen. Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim has confirmed that he’ll change “six, seven or eight” players from the PSG match last Sunday, with Bernardo Silva definitely out. Accepting that it’s a risk, he said that the concern was not the quality but the team dynamic. Observing that Chambly have that dynamic and are a strong team in good form, he said that he had to make the call, since the team is still involved in four competitions. Does that suggest that he wouldn’t be too upset should Chambly cause an upset here?
Avranches (National) – Fleury 91 (CFA)
Arguably the biggest shock of the last round was Fleury 91’s 2-0 defeat of Ligue 2 leaders Brest. Clearly Jean-Marc Furlan’s men have bigger fish to fry, but it was still an impressive result for the minnows formerly known as Fleury-Mérogis, for whom Aurélien Tertereau was the hero, scoring the match-winning brace. The real drama took place close to the end of the match when Brest put in a complaint on realising that Fleury had brought on a substitute who wasn’t registered. Some Fleury players left the pitch in tears, thinking that they would be thrown out of the Coupe despite the win, but Brest decided to withdraw their appeal.
The CFA outfit are therefore free to test themselves against a team one tier higher up the pyramid – the National’s Avranches – who also defeated Ligue 2 opposition in the last round, beating Laval 3-1, including a superb solo effort and the image of the round from Jonathan Clauss – fantastic scenes! Avranches reached this stage two years ago, beating Ligue 1 Lorient 1-0, then taking Metz to extra time before bowing out. They now find themselves in the rare position of favourites but will see this as a great opportunity to progress at their Stade René Fenouillère, located across the bay from the Mont Saint Michel.
Both teams are in the ventre mou of their respective leagues and so can fully focus on Coupe progress. This should be a great tie in a great setting – what the cup is all about!
Rennes (Ligue 1) – Paris-SG (Ligue 1)
For the second time in almost three weeks, PSG head out west for a trip to Rennes. The cup holders will be hoping for an improved performance from the one they gave in their narrow one goal victory back in mid-January when a neat Julian Draxler finish proved the difference.
Both sides are missing a number of key players for a variety of reasons. The home side will be without Yoann Gourcuff, Ludovic Baal and Gelson Fernandes who are all “rested”, Polish winger Kamil Grosicki is absent as he looks to secure a move to Hull City, and Edson Mexer is out due to injury. There are rare call-ups then for Afonso, Mehdi Zeffane, Nicolas Janvier and James Les Siliki, who impressed in a very brief appearance against Nantes at the weekend. Striker Giovanni Sio returns from CAN duty and will almost certainly lead the line. Eyes will be on the talented young duo of defender Joris Gnagnon and leggy, skillful attacker Adama Diakhaby.
PSG’s list of absentees reads like a who’s who of talented players with Kevin Trapp, Thomas Meunier, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Marco Verratti and Angel Di Maria all out with knocks. Giovani Lo Celso is also not included in the match day squad. There are however returns for Serge Aurier (from CAN duty) and Javier Pastore (from treatment table duty).
PSG have made a storming start to the year with five wins from their six games in 2017, the only “non-win” being the recent draw against league leaders Monaco. Rennes on the other hand have only recorded one win since the turn of the year, that being their 6-0 win at Biarritz in the previous round. The team from Biarritz will be paying close attention to this game, as after their heavy defeat, Rennes captain Romain Danze invited the team to be their guests should Rennes make it to the final. It’s a shame therefore that they were subsequently drawn against PSG! The Parisians secured an even bigger victory in their Coupe de France game, running out 7-0 winners against a hapless Bastia. There should be no chance of a repeat of either of those scores but there seems little evidence to suggest anything other than a PSG win here.