Caen, Nantes out to find form - before it's too late
By S. Willis
With each side having taken just one point from their last five Ligue 1 Conforama outings, 19th-placed Caen and 15th-placed Nantes will both go all-out for a three-point haul as they play their rescheduled Week 23 clash.
Wednesday, 13 February 2019
SM Caen - FC Nantes
Buffeted by the tragic death of Argentine striker Emiliano Sala as well as a number of rescheduled and postponed matches, Nantes have tumbled down the standings since an undefeated run if six matches (four wins) took them as high as tenth in late November.
Although their Coupe de France form has been an exception - they beat Toulouse 2-0 to set up a clash with D4 side Vitré in the quarters at the end of the month - their last league victory dates back to 8 January's Week 18 win over Montpellier and their dropping a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 at home to Nîmes had coach Vahid Halilhodzic worried.
"After an unacceptable match like that one, some player s have to ask themselves the tough questions," said the Franco-Bosnian former Nantes player, whose side sit 15th with 24 points, six lengths clear of opponents Caen in 18th. "There will likely be changes. We need to take responsibility and not hide behind excuses. Otherwise we'll soon find ourselves in the second division. I'm expecting a reaction."
Nonetheless, he is expected to stick with a front three of Gabriel Boschilia, in-form striker Kalifa Couliably and Majeed Waris.
Line in the sand
Meanwhile Caen boss Fabien Mercadal is in a tighter bind than his Nantes counterpart. Although, like Les Canaris, the Normandy side are through to the Coupe de France quarters, where they will face OL, they have lost their last four in the league.
The 1-0 defeat in the relegation six-pointer against direct rivals Amiens at the weekend saw them slip into the relegation zone for the first time since the opening day of the season, but Mercadal was far from crestfallen as he fronted the press in the lead-up to what could prove a crucial match.
Mercadal: 'Destiny in our own hands'
"We're showing ourselves no mercy. We're training hard, sticking at it and trying to improve," he declared. "We won't give an inch. I know we have some gaps and some weaknesses, but in terms of commitment and drive, we will be in top gear. If we win, we will overtake Amiens and put a side like Nantes in the relegation firing line. We know all this; we hold our destiny in our own hands."
Mercadal is also tipped to go with a front three, likely a first-choice trident of Claudio Beauvue, Enzo Crivelli and Casimir Ninga.
SM Caen: B. Samba; Guilbert, Gradit, Djiku, Armougom; Oniangué (c), Diomandé, Fajr; Beauvue, Crivelli, Ninga
FC Nantes: Tatarusanu; Fabio, Diego Carlos, Pallois, Cha.Traoré; Rongier (c), Krhin, Ab. Touré; Boschilia, K. Coulibaly, Waris