Saint-Etienne boss Jean-Louis Gasset will be thinking of the late Louis Nicollin when he returns to Montpellier on Friday evening for a crunch match in terms of European qualification.
Montpellier Hérault SC - AS Saint-Etienne
Gasset saved MHSC from relegation last season, leaving the club shortly before Nicollin's death at the age of 74 last June, and told L'Equipe: "Montpellier is my club, I'm at home there. My father created the club with Louis, who was like my uncle. I'm going to be coming back to the club as an opponent in a match where there's something at stake, on an evening when they'll be a homage to Louis Nicollin. It's going to be an emotional evening."
The 64-year-old expanded on the theme in his pre-match press conference: "It's going to be a match unlike any other. Arriving at the stadium and knowing the boss won't be there, well it's the first time it will have been like that. His shadow will be over La Mosson."
Gasset has worked wonders at ASSE, lifting them from 16th when he took over shortly before Christmas to sixth in the table and a shot at European qualification. Les Verts are third in the 2018 form table with 29 points from 15 matches, behind only Marseille and champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Subotic: Gasset "reminds me of Jürgen Klopp"
Recruiting wisely in January and Gasset's wily coaching have combined to great effect and since Neven Subotic joined from Borussia Dortmund, ASSE have conceded just nine goals in 12 games. The Serbian defender speaks in glowing terms of Laurent Blanc's longtime assistant with Bordeaux, France and Paris Saint-Germain: "I feel good here because Jean-Louis Gasset has faith in me. He reminds me of Jürgen Klopp because he speaks frankly with me. I don't like dealing with people when I have to read between the lines or cope with nuances. From the first time we spoke to each other, we got on very well."
Gasset, like Rémy Cabella, is unsure whether he'll be at Saint-Etienne next season. Former Montpellier playmaker Cabella, shining on loan from OM, said: "At the end of the season I'll speak to Marseille and it's not easy because I won't get to decide. Playing in Europe with Saint-Etienne could be good."
Aguilar and Roussillon out
MHSC are three points back from ASSE and have managed only one point from their last three outings, following up a 0-0 at OM with defeats to Bordeaux and Nice. Michel Der Zakarian will have to cope without full-backs Ruben Aguilar (hamstring) and Jérôme Roussillon (foot) as his side attempt to revive their faltering attempts to make Europe.
Der Zakarian admitted: "If we don't beat Saint-Etienne and the clubs ahead of us win then it will be over for us. I still believe and there are still four games to be played. We need to prepare well to take on Saint-Etienne."
Montpellier Hérault SC: Lecomte; Mukiele, P. Mendes, Hilton (c), Congré; Piriz, Skhiri; Mbenza, Sambia, Dolly; Sio
AS Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Debuchy, Théophile-Catherine, Subotic, Gabriel Silva; Selnaes, M’Vila; J. Bamba, Cabella, Monnet-Paquet; Beric