Coupe de la Ligue Seiziemes / Dixiemes
The Coupe de la Ligue is back, with the 14 Ligue 1 teams un-bothered by Europe joining the fray, which combined with the limited scope of professionalism in France and a fairly rigid approach to naming things, means another set of seiziemes that involve dix matches.
One National (third-tier) team remains, Paris’ Red Star, who have so far needed penalties for their two victories, after drawing 1-1 to Auxerre and 0-0 away at Gazelec. They will be away again this round, after the fixture was reversed, and against Ligue 1 opposition. However, as that opposition is Metz, currently bottom of Ligue 1 with only three points and have just sacked their manager, Red Star may still be feeling relatively chipper about their chances.
C’est loin de notre maison, qu’ils tenteront de réaliser un nouvel exploit, mais avec l’esprit de Bauer au coeur. – Patrice Haddad, Red Star
Of the Ligue 2 teams remaining, Tours are in some trouble, bottom of Ligue 2 with only two points, five league goals, and having just sacked their manager (when L’Equipe has ‘Entraineur : ???’ on their club profile page, it’s not a good sign) so Claudio Ranieri’s third-place Nantes may not need to bust a gut for that one.
Similarly Nancy, who are away at Angers, are not in a good place, lying 16th, and needing penalties to see off Orleans in the last round after an unexpected bye in the first as SC Bastia dropped off the radar. Toulouse host Clermont, who are in sixth and with the best defensive record in Ligue 2 even after losing manager Corinne Diacre to Les Bleues, and Lorient will welcome Caen. Les Merlus also have a stingy defence, which might be to be expected with Mickael Landreau in charge, and beat Orleans 2-1 away at the weekend to put an end to a run of four games without a win, which has seen them drop down the table a little to fifth.
The most interesting of the Ligue 2-involved games looks therefore to be the extremely inconsistent Valenciennes, away at the extremely consistent Lille. Tenth-place VAFC have scored three in each of their cup matches so far, against Sochaux and league-leaders Reims, but have a tendency to either win or lose big in the league. With Lille in 19th, all sorts of bother, and without a win since the first game of the season (an in-hindsight baffling 3-0 win over Nantes) this could be complete chaos.
In the all-Ligue 1 match-ups, Montpellier travel to Guingamp with the intention of resting 40-year old captain Vitorino Hilton after his barnstorming display against Saint-Etienne at the weekend, but starting 19-year-old Gambardella-winner and France U19 international Dimitry Bertaud in goal for his professional debut. With Montpellier taking eleven points from their last five games, including against PSG, Monaco and Nice, Michel Der Zakarian will be excitedly hoping that despite those changes, his team will be able to continue an impressive run of form.
Dijon host Rennes in the minds-possibly-elsewhere-ico, as both have to be focussed on the weekend’s league matches given their league positions, and Troyes v Amiens sees two of the promoted teams face-to-face in what should be a reasonably even encounter. Finally, Saint-Etienne travel to Strasbourg, who managed a great result winning 2-1 away at Nice on Sunday.
The junior cup competition may have less romance than the Coupe de France, but you’d give Lorient and Clermont a decent chance, and Valenciennes and Red Star might be away but will be playing clubs in turmoil. Here’s hoping for the opportunity to see some stars of the future playing their part, with some good games, and some lower-league representation going through to the next round, when the big guns arrive.
Schedule – all times BST
Lorient v Caen (17.45)
Guingamp v Montpellier (20.05)
Lille v Valenciennes (17.45)
*Dijon v Rennes (20.05)
*Strasbourg v Saint-Etienne
*Troyes v Amiens
*Tours v Nantes
*Toulouse v Clermont
Angers v Nancy
Metz v Red Star
Massively confusing French TV schedule here. Viewers in or apparently in France can access the relevant regional broadcasts here on France3 (you may need to give Flash a kick), but only for the five games marked * – all matches plus the multiplex should also be available here on FranceTVSport. The official CdlL Youtube channel will also have highlights after the games.