Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Cabella leads Saint-Etienne charge against Montpellier

Publish on 09/05/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


In-form Rémy Cabella will be AS Saint-Étienne's main threat as they play host to his former club Montpellier Hérault SC on Friday seeking the win that will take them back onto the Ligue 1 Conforama podium.

 AS Saint-Etienne - Montpellier Hérault SC 

Cabella was instrumental in last weekend's 3-2 win at AS Monaco that saw Jean-Louis Gasset's men move ahead of arch-rivals Olympique Lyonnais and into third for just a few hours — Léo Dubois's late equaliser for OL against LOSC Lille meant Bruno Genesio's side edged a point clear of Les Verts again.

But with Lyon not facing Olympique de Marseille until Sunday this week, Saint-Étienne will be able to enjoy the mouthwatering prospect of a first-ever UEFA Champions League place for a little longer…if they win.

That prospect — on current form — has every likelihood of happening. The record French champions have won their last four league outings and have triumphed six times in an astonishing seven-game unbeaten run that makes them the team no-one wants to face right now.

If Wahbi Khazri was the architect-in-chief of his side's solid first half to the campaign, then Cabella is undoubtedly the driving, creative force behind their breakneck charge for the line and a first top-three finish since 1981/82.

Cabella: 'We're very strong right now'

"We're putting a lot of pressure on Lyon. We're very strong right now, even though our first half [against Monaco] was catastrophic. There were some strong words said at half-time and we went back out there with more desire. We have to enjoy it, it's a great win," explained Cabella, who has been involved in six goals — scoring four — in his last seven league outings to keep Saint-Étienne in hot pursuit.

"Lyon and Lille are two great teams, they know that we're pushing them. We're focussing on ourselves and we'll see what happens. I didn't like the first half and said so to the boys at the break. I then scored and got an assist, that's what's expected of me. I'm happy for the team."

"Rémy Cabella is having a great end to the season," said Gasset, who revealed he had given his player permission to go to his best friend's wedding two days before the game at the Stade Louis II.

"He was criticised because he exaggerated, he was irritating, but right now it's a great Cabella we're seeing and above all a Cabella who's making a difference in games. That's what we like about him. In terms of attitude, he wants to go for it."

Frenetic pace

The game will be a special one for Cabella, who made his name at Montpellier and won the 2011/12 league title there, as well as Gasset, who kept his hometown club in the top flight in 2016/17 before taking over at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

In many seasons, Montpellier's current run of four wins and just one defeat in their last six games would have seen them pushing the top three. They are set to finish in the top six for the first time since Cabella joined the likes of Olivier Giroud and Younes Belhanda in lifting the Ligue 1 Conforama trophy.

However, such is the frenetic pace ahead of them, Michel Der Zakarian's fifth-placed side know anything less than a win against a team they have beaten just twice in their last 13 attempts will spell the end of their European hopes with two games left.

For owner and president Laurent Nicollin, however, the involvement of Gasset, who played his entire career at Montpellier and began his coaching work there too, in Saint-Etienne's cause means he will have some consolation if his club misses out on continental competition.

"I saw Jean-Louis Gasset not that long ago. He told me they had five finals left, now they have three. Whatever happens, he'll take Saint-Etienne into the Europa League and perhaps into the Champions League," said Nicollin.

"I would be happy if Saint-Etienne got back into the biggest European competition. We played in it four or five years ago with Montpellier. It wasn't logical for such a small club as ours, but what a great moment that was.

"If you invite me, I'll happily come to support Saint-Etienne despite my Lyon roots. Because Saint-Etienne in the Champions League would be incredible, and the fans deserve it."

Probable teams

Saint-Etienne: to follow

Montpellier: to follow