Toulouse FC are halfway towards ensuring their Ligue 1 Conforama survival after beating AC Ajaccio 3-0 in the relegation play-off first leg on Wednesday, but coach Mickaël Debève remains cautious ahead of Sunday's second leg.
Toulouse FC - AC Ajaccio
Max Gradel, Christopher Jullien and Yaya Sanogo were on target in a routine win for Le Téfécé, which was played behind closed doors at Montpellier Hérault SC's Stade de la Mosson following trouble in Ajaccio's final-day Domino's Ligue 2 win over Le Havre AC last Sunday.
Key players missing
Ajaccio had beaten Le Havre 5-3 on penalties following a 2-2 draw at their Stade François Coty, but after playing 120 minutes in that game, the Corsicans looked tired against Toulouse and lost goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca and top scorer Ghislain Gimbert before the hour was out on Wednesday.
Toulouse had no such trouble - although Jimmy Durmaz and Somalia were subbed off for the final half-hour - but Debève is keen to avoid complacency as his side look to cement what would be a 15th consecutive season in the French top flight.
'Still a match to be played'
"We left Ajaccio no chances but we have to remain wary as there's still a match to be played," he warned at his post-match press conference. "We want to finish things off well at The Stadium so we can reward the fans and celebrate with them. If we win, we'll lock down our place in Ligue 1, which has been our objective all along."
Andy Delort and Yannick Cahuzac missed the first leg due to ankle and adductor injuries respectively. Delort could return to put pressure on the attacking berths occupied by Sanogo and Durmaz in an attacking front three, but midfielder Yannick Cahuzac will not return until next season, and whether Debève will be his coach by then remains to be seen.
Decision to come
"I'm very satisfied with what the lads produced," he said. "We were calm, focused and patient. Once survival is clinched, I will talk with the club president [Olivier Sadran] and he will make a decision."
Ajaccio midfielder Mathieu Coutadeur has been hit with a seven-match suspension, meanwhile, after pushing referee Frank Schneider in the Le Havre game, while Leca and Gimbert are doubtful. Debève's opposite number Olivier Pantaloni has a difficult task if he is to guide L'ours back to the top flight after a five-year hiatus, and he knows it.
"The lads did all they could at the end of an awful week," he said. "We'll look to finish our season by our giving our best possible showing in Toulouse on Sunday. But we need to be honest: it will be very hard to turn things around."
Toulouse: Lafont; Yago, Diop, Jullien, Moubandje; Somalia, Blin, Imbula; Delort, Sanogo, Gradel
Ajaccio: Mandanda; Hergault, Marin, Avinel, LeJeune; Camara, Boé-Kane; Maâzou, Cavalli, Nouri; Wissa