Coupe de France 8emes – FC Metz v SM Caen
If you happened to see any pigs flying around this weekend, it wouldn’t necessarily be the strangest sight around – Metz and Caen both scored three goals in the same weekend! The two lowest-scoring teams (Caen still are, Metz have now overtaken a couple of others) in Ligue 1 warmed up for their Coupe de France Round of 16 tie by contributing triples to two high-scoring matches. Unfortunately for Metz, they also conceded six to lose to Marseille, while Caen conceded only two, to secure an important win over Nantes.
The Metz defeat at Marseille was hardly a shock in itself, although the scoreline was not expected. Les Grenats managed to combine their new-found attacking ability (this was the fourth time that they have scored three goals in their last seven Ligue 1 matches) with their comedic defending of the beginning of the season. Despite the heavy defeat, there remains an element of upbeatness around the club as they continue to look like a cohesive team and the chances of avoiding relegation are, while slim, still alive.
With the relegation scrap the priority, Frederic Hantz will look to rotate – his hand in any case forced somewhat by the team’s ten-fold injury list along with two suspensions. Living god Yann Jouffre is back in the squad after his latest injury, but for the most part Hantz has named the youngsters who scraped past Tours in the last round. The hero that night was third-choice goalkeeper Quentin Beunardeau, who saved four penalties as Metz won the shoot-out after a 0-0 draw.
Caen’s win over Nantes was a hugely welcome result for les Normands, taking them from the fringes of the relegation battle up to 11th place. The win steadied the ship after two straight league defeats, meaning that they can approach this potentially tricky tie with no distractions. Their season has been built upon a solid defence – only five teams have conceded fewer – bailing out a very blunt attack.
Patrice Garande’s men have scored only 18 Ligue 1 goals and even the 3-2 Nantes win was thanks to a rare brace from centre-back Damien da Silva, catapulting him to third in the club’s scoring charts behind strikers Ivan Santini and Ronny Rodelin. The two strikers played a half each in the last Coupe de France round at fifth tier Canet-en-Roussillon, but had to rely on another defender – Romain Genevois – to score the equalising goal to avoid humiliation, before Caen went through on penalties.
Metz’s sudden solidity at home should help them here, but if Caen put out a strong starting line-up, that may nullify any home advantage. Expect a close tie.