Coupe de France 16emes : ESTAC Troyes v AS Saint-Etienne
This tie sees a meeting between two Ligue 1 teams, who will both be concerned with retaining that status come the end of the season, but who will also no doubt appreciate a morale-boosting Coupe run.
Separated by only one point, with Troyes in 15th place and Saint-Etienne in 16th, and only 1 / 2 points above the drop zone, both teams are in real danger of relegation – perhaps expected of ESTAC but a real shock in the case of ASSE. Neither team comes into the match in great form and perhaps it is a relief for both teams that they are not facing a lower-ranked opponent who could pile on more misery. A fate which Troyes very narrowly avoided in the last round, a late winner from godlike 41-year-old Benjamin Nivet scraping them past 8th (eighth) tier FC Still 1930.
In fact, Jean-Louis Garcia’s men come into this match off the back of a win, Adama Niane’s excellent close-range volley finishing off a fine team move to beat Lille 1-0. That has handed ESTAC a little breathing space at the bottom which allows them to approach this match a bit more freely. Although not the most prolific of scorers, Troyes have a reasonable defence (the best of the current bottom 7, in any case) and, if they can keep it tight here, in Khaoui, Niane and Suk, they have players capable of nicking goals at the other end.
Les Verts, meanwhile, have the blues. A terrible season to date leaves Jean-Louis Gasset – the team’s third coach of the season – struggling to build any momentum or optimism within his ranks. The come into this match following two straight defeats – a respectable enough 1-0 loss to Nice but also a 3-0 humiliation at lanterne rouge Metz. The incoming loanees Yann Mvila and Paul-Georges Ntep, neither flush with much success or form in the last year or so, have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders to help turn things around, while the returning Robert Beric will carry a heavy burden to come up with the team’s goals – particularly with Lois Diony on his way to Bristol City. That Saint-Etienne has the second-worst goal difference and third-worst defence in Ligue 1 highlights that they have problems at both ends of the pitch.
The last round of the Coupe provided some solace, six-time winners Saint-Etienne overcoming a potentially very tricky opponent in Ligue 2 high-fliers Nimes (Beric and Jonathan Bamba with the goals). They’ll want more of the same here, but may travel more in hope than expectation.