Coupe de France 32emes : CA Pontarlier v Montpellier HSC
CA Pontalier sit in third in National 3 Group E, but with three games in hand over the leading pair after a snow-affected run-in to the winter break, allowing them to focus on their match historique. After making it to the 8th round in five of the last seven seasons, they are in the 9th round of the cup for the first time ever. To get here, they have already played six matches, scoring 22 and conceding just three in the process, but are yet to face a higher-ranked team.
A cupset of this magnitude has only downed a professional team a dozen or so times in the 101 years of the Coupe de France. While Montpellier has been one of those teams (losing on penalties to 6th-tier Sanary in 1982), this seems likely to follow the usual pattern – a grand day out for the hosts, aiming to acquit themselves well and maybe cause some headaches for the professionals.
One player with particular reason for wanting to put on a good show is attack-minded left-back Jeremie Courtet – he’s the son of manager Jean-Luc, who has been in place since 2001 after a playing career at a decent level including at Auxerre, Le Havre, and Clermont. Courtet fils has already had a satisfactory cup campaign, as CAP beat FC Morteau Montlebon 2-1 away in the last round – the town where he’s a PE teacher, much to his pupils’ annoyance. Elsewhere the team has Brazilian playmaker Carlos Miranda to call on, who scored a penalty and forced an own goal in the Morteau match, and regular goalscorers Maxime Bonnet and Abba Coly will also be trying to break down the best defence in Ligue 1.
If they can do that, they might just stand a chance, as Montpellier have definitely not been prolific this season, with only 17 league goals scored. They will also probably be looking past this to the Coupe de la Ligue quarter final against Angers midweek, before welcoming Monaco to the Mosson, both games likely to be higher priority for Michel Der Zakarian.
Although 2017 finished on a positive note with a 2-0 win against still-baffling Bordeaux, this followed a run of three straight draws and a loss to lanterne rouge Metz, so with three points separating sixth to 12th, Der Zakarian may be pushing Laurent Nicollin to free up some funds for reinforcements in the transfer window. Cameroonian international left-back Ambroise Oyongo has already been picked up for free after his contract with Montreal Impact expired, which provides welcome cover for key player Jerome Roussillon without shifting anybody out of position. He may however still be recovering from injury and seems unlikely to make an appearance.
While this stage of the cup often features second-string squads for the professionals, Montpellier may take this match as an opportunity to get people match-fit after the winter break, so the squad selection will be interesting. Whoever is picked, the top-tier team will understandably be heavy favourites, and this seems unlikely to be a cupset. CAP will however be doing their level best to keep their historic run going, and if they can hold out until half-time at the Stade Paul Robbe, could make things awkward. Presumably this time, Jeremie Courtet’s pupils will be rooting for their teacher, as he and his father seek to make their mark on the history of the Coupe de France.