Best odds: 5/2
On Saturday evening, the winner of this season’s Coupe de France will be decided, in the final played at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis between Nantes and Toulouse.
To get to this final, Nantes swept away the likes of AF Vire and Thaon, beat Angers on penalties in the round of 16 and triumphed 2-1 over Lens in the quarterfinals, before eventually winning their semifinal clash with Olympique Lyon by 1-0.
It will have been a season of mixed emotions for the club’s supporters. Nantes are obviously doing well in the cup and they’ve come to within a step from lifting the trophy again after last term’s triumph in this competition. It’s a huge success no doubt, but over in Ligue 1, Antoine Krilone Kombouare’s team are fighting to survive. At the moment, they’re 16th with a tally of 32 points, the same as Strasbourg in 15th, but also the same as Brest in 17th, the highest position that still brings relegation as a result at the end of the season. There are six matches left to be played until then and obviously anything can happen, and Nantes must to their best to avoid the drop.
It’s surely worrying for Kombouare and his men that the 1-0 victory over Lyon in the semifinals of this competition is the only win they had in the last six matches. Other than that, they drew 1-1 away to Lyon, lost 0-3 at home to Stade Reims, drew 2-2 at home against AS Monaco, lost 2-1 away to Auxerre, and drew 2-2 at home against Troyes.
Goalkeeper Remy Descamps, who stood between the posts for Nantes throughout the campaign so far, has picked up a groin injury and is unavailable, as is midfielder Pedro Chirivella, also due to a groin problem.
With Descamps out, usual No.1 Alban Lafont will be in goal. Centre-backs Nicolas Pallois and Jean-Charles Castelletto should be flanked by Fabien Centonze and Joao Victor. Centre-back Andrei Girotto was trusted to play as a defensive midfielder against Lyon and he should be given the chance to anchor the midfield again, with Moussa Sissoko and Samuel Mouroussamy between the boxes. Further up, Ludovic Blas is expected to support strikers Mostafa Mohamed and Ignatius Ganago.
Toulouse got past Lannion and Ajaccio to get to the round of 16, where they pushed aside Reims and beat Rodez in the quarterfinals. Luck was with them at that point, as Annecy shocked Olympique Marseille, and Toulouse recovered some of the honor of the top tier by beating the Ligue 2 side to reach the final.
Toulouse have done somewhat better than Nantes in the league. Sitting 12th with 41 points, they should be safe from relegation, though nothing is mathematically guaranteed just yet.
In their last six matches, Philippe Montanier’s team lost to LOSC Lille 0-2 at home, lost 3-1 away to Brest, beat Annecy away in the semifinal by 1-2, beat Montpellier away by 1-2, lost at home to Lyon by 1-2, and eventually beat Lorient away by 0-1.
Striker Rhys Healey is out with an ACL injury, and Montanier is still unsure whether he’ll be able to call upon his captain, midfielder Brecht Dejaegere, who missed the Lorient victory with a concussion.
On the other hand, Marco van den Boomen is available, having served a suspension.
Kjetil Haug should be in goal, with the centre-back pair of Anthony Rouault and Rasmus Nicolaisen flanked by Mikkel Desler and Gabriel Suazo. Van de Boomen will share the midfield duties with Stijn Spierings, while the trio of Zakarai Aboukhlal, Denis Genreau and Fares Chaibi supports striker Thijs Dallinga.
Despite not doing so well in Ligue 1, Nantes have obviously kept their focus on defending this trophy and have beaten tougher opposition to get to the final. They won’t be daunted by the prospect of facing Toulouse now. On the other hand, neither team will rush into the contest and Toulouse will surely have plans of their own. It could well happen that after the winner remains unknown after the initial 90 minutes.
Best odds: 5/2
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