Toulouse eye second with Saint-Etienne in town
By I. Holyman
Toulouse FC will claim second place in Ligue 1 Conforama for 24 hours at least if they continue their fine start to the season when they host AS Saint-Étienne on Tuesday.
Toulouse FC - AS Saint-Étienne
Having saved their top-flight skins in the play-off last season, Toulouse have been transformed with Alain Casanova back at the helm. Following the stinging opening day defeat to Olympique de Marseille, the south-westerners have gone unbeaten to keep themselves within sight of the Ligue 1 Conforama podium.
That run has left them in an improbable fourth place ahead of Tuesday's encounter at the Stadium where — if they claim all three points — they will go a point clear of LOSC Lille, who go to Girondins de Bordeaux on Wednesday.
Toulouse would have been level with the northerners if they had been able to come away from Angers on Saturday with a win, but their stubborn opponents meant they had to settle for a second successive point as they stretched their unbeaten run to five.
WATCH: Toulouse held at Angers
"It wasn't an easy game. Angers stayed really compact. Of course we wanted to win, but when you can't do that, you have to be able to pick up a point," said midfielder John Bostock. "That's what we did. We played well, and it's a good foundation on which to work for the upcoming games."
"We didn't play well in the first half, against a very well organised Angers team, a side that puts you in danger as soon as they win the ball back," added Casanova, who ended a seven-year spell in charge in 2015 only to return this summer.
"At set-pieces, they're one of the best in France. We weren't good enough, particularly in terms of our attitude. The second half was better. Even if it's not what I was hoping for at kick-off, I'll have to settle for a point."
While Toulouse slipped down the table in the second half of last season, Saint-Étienne went in the opposite direction under Jean-Louis Gasset. Les Verts had been expected to challenge for a top-four place this term, but their sluggish start has left them with ground to make up.
The record ten-time French champions had picked up just three points from the four matches they had played following their Week 1 win over En Avant Guingamp, but bounced back from their 4-0 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain in Week 5 with a long-awaited win at home to SM Caen last weekend.
"The reaction in the second half was promising. We put in all the ingredients to win the game, and I think we deserved it," said Wahbi Khazri, whose early second-half penalty cancelled out Caen's first-half opener at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard before another summer signing, Timothee Kolodziejczak, struck the winner.
WATCH: Saint-Étienne show Caen-do attitude
"It was tough to unlock things, but we relaxed after the opening goal, and saw that we could score more. It augurs well," added summer arrival Yannis Salibur. "We have to keep doing what we've been doing well, and improve on it."
Gasset will hope they can do that in Toulouse where they have won on just 11 of 43 visits. The former Montpellier coach will be without Mathieu Debuchy, who was forced off late on against Caen with an injury.
"I had counted on giving him a breather against Toulouse, but now I'm not going to be able to make those sorts of calculations because even if the injury isn't very serious, it penalises us," Gasset explained.
"Now, we have four defenders for four positions, so that will perhaps mean bringing some of our young players in."
Toulouse: to follow
Saint-Étienne: to follow