Sainté eyeing second, last chance for Rennes
Both Saint-Etienne and Stade Rennais FC will be looking for their first UEFA Europa League wins of the campaign on Thursday night, travelling to Ukraine and Romania respectively.
Thursday, 7 November 2019
UEFA Europa League Matchday 4
Group I, CSC Nika Stadium
FC Olexandriya - AS Saint-Etienne
AS Saint-Etienne have undergone a clear transformation since Claude Puel took the reins just days before their derby win over Lyon in early October. Les Verts, who beat resurgent Monaco on Sunday night, are now unbeaten in seven in all competitions and will be looking to use this form to take an option on second place in Group I with a first win of their UEFA Europa League campaign.
"We have no choice but to lift our game, if we want to continue to exist in this competition. Since the coach's arrival, we have been able to find a certain balance," observed Sainté 'keeper Stéphane Ruffier. "Things were already much better when we played Olexandriya the first time (1-1 on Matchday 3, 24 October)."
Puel: 'It depends on us'
Puel will have to do without the services of Arsenal-bound defender William Saliba, who has been ruled out until 2020 with a broken toe - joining an injury list including Mathieu Debuchy and Yann M'Vila - but captain Loïc Perrin will be on hand to marshal the defence and bring the grit that characterized Sainté's 1-0 win over Monaco at the weekend.
"Whatever the formation or line-up, we don't have any chances left," explained Puel, renowned as a fierce competitor. "We'll just focus on our game. We know this Olexandriya team and we are ready to play a good football match, to give the best to achieve our goals. We're far behind in this competition but everything remains playable. I like to think that whoever the opponent is, it depends on us."
Currently in third in Group I on two points - the same as their opponents on the night - a win could see Saint-Etienne go second should there be a result in the groups other match between Wolfsburg and KAA Gent, both of whom are currently on five points. Meanwhile a defeat would leave Puel's side with a mountain to climb.
FC Olexandriya: Pankiv (c); Pashayev, Dubra, Bukhal, Miroshnichenko; Banada, Hrechyshkin, Kovalets; Luchkevych, Bezborodko, Tretyakov
AS Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Debuchy, Lo. Perrin (c), W. Fofana, Trauco; M. Camara, Aholou; Nordin, Khazri, Bouanga; Beric
Group E, Dr. Constantin Radulescu Stadium
CFR 1907 Cluj - Stade Rennais FC
Rennes too are winless in the UEFA Europa League so far this season but, unlike Saint-Etienne, they are coming off two defeats - to Lazio and Cluj - and face the prospect of being left in the dust if they cannot take all three points in Romania on Thursday night.
"For us it's a quarter-final. If we win, we will get a semi-final away to Celtic [on 28 November, with a possible "final" against Lazio on 12 December]. It is in this spirit that we must approach it," explained coach Julien Stéphan, who took the side all the way to the competition's actual quarter-finals last season. "We took one point out of nine from the first three games, including two at home. We will need at least seven points but more likely nine points from the last three games if we want to progress from this group."
Stéphan: 'Prepared and motivated'
After a nightmarish evening at home to Cluj on Matchday 3 - when they lost 1-0 and had Edouard Mendy and Eduardo Camavinga sent off - victory away from home seems like it may be a tall order but Stéphan - who saw his side win a 3-2 thriller in Toulouse at the weekend - is undaunted.
"It's an extremely complicated task," admitted the young coach. "But we're already preparing for this match against a well-positioned Cluj team that will almost qualify if they win tomorrow. I guess we'll have an answer out on the pitch, but what's for sure is that my team is growing and progressing and we're prepared and motivated for the challenge."
CFR 1907 Cluj: Arlauskis; Butean, Burca, Cestor, K. Boli, Camora (c); Djokovic, Culio, Bordeianu, Deac; Omrani
Stade Rennais FC: Salin; H. Traoré, Da Silva (c), Gnagnon, Maouassa; Raphinha, Bourigeaud, Léa-Siliki, M. Niang; Del Castillo, Hunou