Road warriors Strasbourg have Sainté in sights
By S. Willis
Following a home defeat to Angers, Strasbourg will be counting on their strong away form to make up the dropped points in Saint-Etienne - who also lost in Week 24 - as they play their rescheduled Week 23 clash on Wednesday.
Wednesday, 13 February 2019
AS Saint-Etienne - RC Strasbourg Alsace
There is no question that Strasbourg have had a stellar start to 2019. Six wins in eight matches in all competitions saw them climb as high as sixth place while also winning through to the Coupe de la Ligue BKT finale where they will face EA Guingamp on 30 March.
Although they are coming off a 2-1 home defeat to Angers in Week 24, Le Racing could go as high as fourth with a win in Saint-Etienne, and coach Thierry Laurey can count on his side's impressive away form - they have lost just three times in 11 road trips this season - to get the job done against direct European rivals Saint-Etienne.
Laurey not buying into it
And while the match will be played partially behind closed doors - the consequences of crowd disturbances in the Rhône derby loss to Lyon in Week 21 - Laurey doesn't feel this will handicap the home side overly.
"It won't stop talented players from expressing themselves," said the always frank Laurey, who will have to make do without influential right-back Kenny Lala (four goals, eight assists), who is suffering from a thigh complaint. "It's a shame, knowing what the Sainté fans are like - very fervent and passionate, just like our fans. But it won't inhibit the Saint-Etienne players. It could annoy them a bit, but that's as far as it will go."
Meanwhile for Saint-Etienne, stadium sanctions aren't the only legacy of the derby loss to Lyon. Les Verts are winless in their three matches since then, having copped a 6-3 home hiding at the hands of Dijon in the Coupe de France round of 32 before drawing 1-1 with Nantes and then losing 3-0 at home to Rennes at the weekend.
Nonetheless they could also go as high as fourth in case of victory, and coach Jean-Louis Gasset - who was shown a red card for dissent during the defeat in Rennes - knows his side need to stay calm and recapture the for that saw them sitting as high as third place as recently as Week 20.
Gasset: 'A dangerous place'
"After the storm, the sun comes out," he intoned, having admitted that losing the derby by conceding a goal in the final seconds was a real kick in the teeth. "You get through the turbulence and you have to find a way to settle back down - me as much as anyone. We need to make the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard a dangerous place for other teams again, a place where we are comfortable and free to play our game."
Gasset has a more-or-less full-strength squad to choose from, and with his side having lost just one of its last 12 home matches, there is every reason for Les Verts to hope for a result that will pull them back to within three points of bitter rivals Lyon in third.
AS Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Lo. Perrin (c), Subotic, Kolodziejczak; Monnet-Paquet, Aït-Bennasser, M’Vila, Gabriel Silva; Cabella; Diony, Khazri
RC Strasbourg Alsace: Sels; A. Gonçalves, L. Koné, S.Mitrovic (c), Martinez, N’Dour; I. Sissoko, Prcic, Thomasson; Mothiba, Da Costa