Don't look back in Angers: TFC chase great escape
The relegation battle reaches a thrilling climax on the final day of the season with Toulouse FC knowing a win away to Angers SCO at the Stade Jean-Bouin will see them complete a great escape from the drop.
Angers SCO - Toulouse FC
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Only one point separates Toulouse, GFC Ajaccio and Stade de Reims and only one will stay up with the other two condemned to relegation along with already-demoted ESTAC Troyes. Pascal Dupraz's side have their fate in their own hands though, as they are a point above Reims and lie ahead of Gazélec thanks to a superior goal difference that will surely not be overturned.
While a win will certainly be enough, a draw would also suffice for Toulouse if Gazélec and Reims both fail to take three points. And they would even stay up in the event of a defeat, provided the Corsicans lose away to FC Lorient and Reims do not beat second-placed Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade Auguste-Delaune.
If Toulouse, who are currently in their 13th consecutive Ligue 1 campaign, do secure survival it would go down as a miracle escape given the state they were in when Dupraz was asked to replace the sacked Dominique Arribagé in the dugout at the beginning of March.
TFC had won just once in 12 league games and were 10 points from safety with former Evian-Thonon-Gaillard FC coach Dupraz only having 10 matches to save them. However, they have won four and taken 15 points from his first nine matches, including a nervy 1-0 victory at home to Troyes last weekend, when Oscar Trejo came off the bench to get the only goal.
In contrast Reims have collected only four points over the same period and Gazélec have picked up just nine points since the start of March. Toulouse therefore climbed out of the bottom three last weekend for the first time since October and Dupraz is confident they will now complete the job.
"When I arrived I would have given my two hands, my two feet and my nose for this," said Dupraz at his pre-game press conference. "It is more difficult to recover a 10-point deficit than it is to play a match like this. But we can't just win on command. For a promoted club like Angers to have 50 points is wonderful and to have spent so long up towards the top of the table is fantastic."
He added: "Angers will want to finish a brilliant season as well as possible. Nothing could be more enjoyable than staying up against a team who will give us a hard time. Nobody can take away my belief. What we are doing is brilliant.
Dupraz: 'fabulous moments'
"The players are experiencing some fabulous moments and if they pull it off they will remember this for the rest of their lives. I am even a little jealous. I would like to be in their position. But between believing it and actually doing it there are 95 minutes to be played. Desire is a wonderful motivator."
Dupraz is driven by the memory of two years ago, when his Evian team went to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard on the last day needing to avoid defeat to stay up and ended up winning 3-0. However, Toulouse have struggled badly away from home all season, winning just twice. They have not won at all in seven away league outings since beating Reims in January but have drawn three out of four on the road since the appointment of Dupraz.
They will hope that Angers are already thinking about their summer holidays but the SCO come into the final day of a memorable campaign in ninth place and they are looking to clinch a first top-half finish in the top flight since coming fourth in 1974.
Stéphane Moulin's side have spent just one week outside the top half all season but are only three points better off than SC Bastia in 14th and have not won or scored a goal in any of their last three outings. That included a 1-0 defeat away to Bastia last weekend, when Thomas Mangani missed a penalty for the visitors in Corsica.
Mangani and Romain Thomas both serve one-game bans here, but midfielder Romain Saïss is set to return after missing last week's game. Toulouse have a clean bill of health with the exception of marauding Malian midfielder Tongo Doumbia.
Angers: Letellier; Angoula, Traoré, Saïss, Bouka Moutou; Ndoye (c), Bourillon, Capelle; Ketkeophomphone, Yattara, Sunu
Toulouse: Lafont; Yago, Diop, Tisserand, Moubandjé; Blin, Didot, Somalia; Regattin, Ben Yedder, Braithwaite (c)