Nice chase the dream, Sainté to qualify with win
By S. Willis
OGC Nice travel to Gelsenkirchen looking to keep their emaciated qualification hopes alive while AS Saint-Etienne can clinch their place in the round of 32 with a win at home to 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Thursday evening.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
UEFA Europa League Matchday 5, Group I
Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen
FC Schalke 04 - OGC Nice
There is no question that OGC Nice, bottom of Group I with just three points from four matches, are up against it as they travel to Germany to take on runaway leaders Schalke 04 - who have won all four of their matches so far - on Thursday.
Indeed, they could be eliminated as of tonight should they either lose or draw in Germany, and should Krasnodar beat Salzburg in the group's other match. However, coach Lucien Favre is tipped to field a much-changed line-up that verges on a 'B' team, without Malang Sarr, Wylan Cyprien, Jean-Michaël Seri, Alassane Plea and Younès Belhanda - on top of injury absentees Mario Balotelli and captain Paul Baysse.
'Not how we look at things'
Nonetheless, Favre denied that he and his club have given up on their European dream: "That won't be the case; that's not how we look at things. We know the situation very well: it depends on us, but it depends on the others too, even though our chances (of qualifying) aren't very good."
The Swiss coach is tipped to field a 3-5-2 formation with Dante flanked by Arnaud Souquet and Olivier Boscagli while a central midfield three of Vincent Koziello, Mathieu Bodmer and Rémi Walter sit behind Anastasios Donis and Valentin Eysseric up front, with Ricardo Pereira and Dalbert working the flanks.
FC Schalke 04: Fährmann; Höwedes (c), Kehrer, Nastasic; Junior Caiçara, Goretzka, Stambouli, Aogo, Baba; Konoplianka Tekpetey
OGC Nice: Benitez; Souquet, Dante (c), Boscagli; R. Pereira, Koziello, Bodmer, Walter, Dalbert; Donis, Eysseric
Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne
AS Saint-Etienne - 1. FSV Mainz 05
Les Verts can book their place in the knockout rounds with as little as a 0-0 draw at home to Mainz on Thursday night, but there is little doubt that Christophe Galtier's side will be aiming much higher as they play host to the German outfit who sit three points behind them in third place on the Group C table.
"If we look to settle for the 0-0 draw, we'll crash headlong into a brick wall," declared Galtier in his pre-match press conference. "We have to score goals."
That is easier said than done, however, for a side who have been struggling up front all season and who have scored just five times so far in the current Europa League campaign. What's more, Galtier will be without the attacking options of the injured Romain Hamouma and Robert Beric - and the solid midfield presence of Fabien Lemoine.
Still, despite a well-earned reputation as a defensive side, Saint-Etienne look likely to be on the front foot in front of a Stade Geoffroy-Guichard packed to the rafters, playing in a 4-3-3 formation with Nolan Roux at centre-forward, flanked by Ousmane Tannane and Kévin Monnet-Paquet.
Young Norwegian midfield star Ole Selnaes will likely be handed the keys to the centre of midfield, with Jordan Veretout and Bryan Dabo on either side, while the tried and tested central defensive pairing of captain Loïc Perrin and Florentin Pogba will operate between full-backs Kévin Malcuit and Cheik M'Bengue.
AS Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Malcuit, L. Perrin (c), F. Pogba, M’Bengue; Veretout, Selnaes, Br. Dabo; Tannane, Roux, Monnet-Paquet
1. FSV Mainz 05: Lössl; Donati, Bell, Bungert (c), Bussmann; Gbamin, F. Frei; Jairo Samperio, Malli, De Blasis; Cordoba