Coupe de France 16emes : FC Nantes v AC Auxerre
La Coupe de France rolls into Nantes on Tuesday night when AJ Auxerre take on FC Nantes at the famous Stade de la Beaujoire. Two of France’s more storied clubs, who have both experienced a number of ups as well as downs in recent times. They share seven Coupe de France titles between them, four to three in Auxerre’s favour, and Auxerre were narrowly between by the Parisian behemoth in 2015 final 1-0.
FC Nantes swatted aside fifth-tier USM Senlis in Beauvais at the beginning of January winning 4-0. That score line was in stark contrast with how FCN’s games have tended to go in the league, where goals have been used sparingly to maximise points accrual. Nantes have won seven out of their ten league wins by one goal to nil, and the other three wins have been two goals to one.
This is somewhat different to the relatively swashbuckling style with which they finished last season under Sergio Conceicao. Claudio Ranieri has clearly prioritised defensive organisation, thus adhering to the Italian stereotype to great effect. It should not be forgotten that FCN are currently fifth in Ligue 1 and this is their best start to the season since the last time the Canaris were champions of France, back in 2001.
AJ Auxerre were relegated to Ligue 2 in 2012 and as such their Coupe action began way back in November with a tie away at fifth-tier FC Chamalieres where they won 3-1. They then needed extra time to edge past fourth-tier ASF Andrézieux-Bouthéon. Next up, the men from Bourgogne had little trouble getting past another fourth-tier team when they destroyed SC Schiltigheim 5-1.
AJA are no strangers to spoiling Ligue 1 teams’ parties – in last season’s competition they defeated Saint Etienne 3-0 and on their run to the 2015 final they beat Coupe de France specialists EA Guingamp in the semis to seal a date in Paris.
Can Auxerre upset FC Nantes? Looking at FCN’s recent cup travails they were beaten at Ligue 2’s rock-bottom club Tours FC in the Coupe de la Ligue earlier in the season. They contrived to lose at Sochaux in 2016’s Coupe de France. Auxerre, who sit currently twelfth in the table, can look to take 2018’s decent run of form into this cup tie.
Looking at AJA’s squad they do have smattering of players with knowledge and experience of Ligue 1. Mohamed Yattara has played for Lyon and Angers in Ligue 1 with a modicum of success and remains a proven goal scorer in the second division. Birama Touré has two seasons in Ligue 1 for FC Nantes, Zacharie Boucher played for Toulouse and not forgetting the venerable Mickael Tacalfred who started more than 100 top flight games. Potential for an upset? Check.
FC Nantes meanwhile have had a difficult week; a valiant performance in vain at home to PSG was followed by a hugely frustrating draw at Toulouse in midweek, the week bookended by an incredibly poor display against a manager-less Bordeaux side where they lost 1-0. On paper a cup tie at home to a lower league side should offer Ranieri’s men a chance to bounce back but football is not played on paper.