Denis Bouanga, Saint-Etienne

Saint-Etienne out to prove best in Brest

Publish on 19/11/2020 at 22:22 - I. HOLYMAN


Saint-Etienne are aiming to avoid equalling a club record run of seven straight Ligue 1 Uber Eats defeats, but will have their work cut out at Stade Brestois 29 on Saturday (kick-off 17:00 CET/1600 GMT).

Saint-Etienne's season has gone drastically off the rails after having opened the 2020/21 campaign in style. Claude Puel's men racked up three straight wins and then drew in Round 4 before their form dropped off in spectacularly worrying fashion.


Not only have the record French champions failed to pick up a single point from their last six league outings, but they have found the back of the net just twice in that miserable run, leaving them with only one option when they travel to Brittany.


"We have to win. We know it. The players know it. The question is: how to do we achieve that?" said Puel, who saw Denis Bouanga fail to score a late penalty last time out as Les Verts missed out on a derby point against Olympique Lyonnais. "Play to win is logical, and that's what we do in every game. The most important thing is to stay focussed on our game and the means to get back to winning ways.


WATCH: Saint-Etienne miss out on derby point at Lyon

"Before the derby, I talked to the players about what we had done really well since the start of the season. Our qualities haven't evaporated. In a situation like this one, your game, the ingredients you put in and the character we show are what's important. That's what gets you a result. We have to snap out of this downward spiral. It's the 'how to get there' that counts."


Yvan Neyou has been one of the side's bright spots in these dark weeks, and the Cameroonian midfielder's performances meant the club announced on Wednesday they have already taken up the purchase option in Neyou's loan deal from Portuguese club Braga.


"It was my long-term goal, but I didn't think the club would take this decision so quickly," said the 23-year-old, who has missed just one league game this term, and who has now signed a permanent deal through to 2024.


"In my head, it was something that would be sorted out at the end of the season if the club was happy with me. I'm very happy and I would like to thank the club for the faith they've shown in me."


"Yvan always gives his all, because he's a competitor," added Puel. "He won't change everything on his own, but we have more certainties with him. When you see him on the pitch, he stands up to be counted, asks for the ball, and adds 'verticality' to our game."


WATCH: Brest end Lille's unbeaten start

Puel is also expected to be able to call on veteran full-back Mathieu Debuchy, who has recovered from a thigh injury sustained against Olympique de Marseille in mid-September, while he will make an eleventh-hour decision on the fitness of Arnaud Nordin, who has missed the last four matches.


Panagiotis Retsos and Kévin Monnet-Paquet will both be missing for the game against Brest, who have made their second-best start to a top-flight campaign. Only in 2010/11 did they have more wins after 10 games than the four they boast right now, and they have won three of their last four home matches.


The most recent of those was the 3-2 defeat of LOSC Lille — ending the northerners' unbeaten start to the campaign — to halt a worrying slide of three straight defeats for Olivier Dall'Oglio's men.


Brendan Chardonnet is suspended for the hosts while Christophe Hérelle is a doubt meaning Lilian Brassier could start in defence if he shakes off an adductor niggle. Dall'Oglio is aware of the visitors' far greater problems, but is wary of a backlash.


"Saint-Etienne aren't on a good run, but they played very well against Lyon. They didn't deserve to lose," he said. "They're a very young team, under construction, but there is quality. Against Lyon, I saw a different team to the one we had seen in recent weeks. They were a lot more solid, a lot more aggressive and determined."


Probable teams

Brest: Larsonneur; Pierre-Gabriel, Duverne (c), Brassier, Perraud; Lasne, Belkebla; Honorat, Faivre, Cardona; Mounié


Saint-Etienne: Moulin; Debuchy (c), Moukoudi, Kolodziejczak, Trauco; Youssouf, Camara, Neyou, Aouchiche; Bouanga, Abi