Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Guingamp and Caen in relegation battle royale

Publish on 03/05/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


En Avant Guingamp and SM Caen meet on Saturday evening with neither side able to countenance defeat as a loss could deliver a potential knockout blow in their fight to maintain their Ligue 1 Conforama status.

 En Avant Guingamp - SM Caen 

Both teams are in a perillous position with just four games of the season remaining. Guingamp, who had revived hopes of staying up after looking cut adrift at Christmas, are bottom of the table with a club low 24 points; Caen are five points — also with a club-record low tally for this stage of the season — and two places better off in the relegation/promotion play-off spot.

The Normandy visitors are four points from outright safety after finding an impressive run of form just when they desperately needed it. The coaching tandem of Rolland Courbis and Fabien Mercadal have sparked real hope they can keep the side up — or at least give them an opportunity to save themselves in the play-off — with three wins in their last five league games.

They head to Brittany on the back of successive victories — the first time Caen have managed that since September 2017 — and a pair of consecutive clean sheets. Most crucially, they also have the confidence borne of having triumphed in their relegation six-pointer against Dijon FCO, the team sandwiched between them and Guingamp, last weekend.

"We're happy and relieved. We did what we wanted to do and played as a team, something that meant we had the whole stadium with us and felt stronger," said Mercadal after seeing Fayçal Fajr get the only goal of the game at the Stade Michel d'Ornano.

"The players proved they've not given up. We felt stronger even though it was touch and go at times. We now head into our last four games with our destiny in our own hands. That said, we're not getting carried away."

Nor should they with still more work to do, but they will have nearly 1000 fans backing them in Brittany where they could claim their 200th Ligue 1 win.

Courbis: 'We must score twice'

"If we save ourselves, it'll be because we have won back the support of our fans. That support is already helping us to prepare for our game," said Courbis.

"A defeat for Guingamp would be a lot more dramatic for them than for us." "We have to be more dangerous and more clinical. I can't imagine winning at Guingamp without scoring at least twice."

Goals have been a problem for both sides this season, and matches between them in recent times have always been tense affairs regardless of the stakes. They played out a goalless draw earlier in the season, the third successive blank scoreline in matches between them.

Another 0-0 would suit Caen more than Guingamp, who need to get maximum points at every opportunity. Since their Coupe de la Ligue final defeat to RC Strasbourg Alsace at the end of March, Jocelyn Gourvennec's side have picked up just two points from their five matches, and conceded nine goals in their last three.

"We have to stay motivated until the end of the season. We have always been able to respond with our backs to the wall. The whole squad is focussed. When things aren't going well, you have to focus on concrete things. We need players that are focussed and positive. We knew April would be tough. We have to succeed in May," said the Guingamp boss, who saw his team beaten 3-0 at OGC Nice last time out.

"We have to win at home. The defeat to Nice could be worrying, but things can turn around quickly in football. Caen have been able to turn things round. We were able to get back in the hunt. So we have to win against Caen to be able to keep believing we can do it. We're going to get ourselves up for that. Caen's victory against Dijon is better for us. It redistributes the cards. We're in it, we won't give up."

Probable teams

Guingamp: Caillard; Traoré, Kerbrat, Sorbon (c), Rebocho; Didot, Phiri, Blas; Merghem, Roux, Thuram

Caen: Samba; Zahary, Guilbert, Gradit, Armougom; Sankoh, Deminguet, Fajr (c), Ninga; Tchokounté, Crivelli