Tonight’s Coupe de la Ligue quarter-final away to Saint-Etienne was always going to be huge but after the defeat to Bastia last Saturday, Laurent Blanc’s men can ill afford to slip-up again.
Our defence of the cup is in jeopardy, there is no doubt about it. Of all the places to be going after a humbling 4-2 defeat, a trip to Les Verts is far from ideal. It is going to be tough! The Stade Geoffroy-Guichard is going to be absolutely rocking and the fans there will make it an intimidating atmosphere.
The players may be delicate after the Bastia defeat but it is time to stand up and be counted! There is a place in the semi-final at stake and so too the future of Laurent Blanc. Defeat tonight could go a long way in deciding his long-term future. Whether that is fair or not, it’s just the way it is! Nasser Al-Khelaifi and co have kept quiet as of late – especially after the loss to SCB – so reports in the Parisian media suggest all is not well.
Blanc was speaking in his pre-match presser yesterday and revealed that everybody was ‘angry’ from the defeat in Corsica. He also said that his players need to take a look at themselves to put things right; “We weren’t happy, we were angry. I don’t know if playing three days later is a good thing, but I think that’s the way it is. We will wait to see what happens on Tuesday, even though that is a cup match. We don’t have much time to bounce back. But I hope and I think we can for that match. It is my duty to believe, and to convince the players that we can qualify for the semi-finals against Saint-Etienne. We have to have a good look at ourselves. We also have to be aware of certain things. The coaching staff and myself, we accept our responsibilities. But the players need to ask themselves the right questions, need to have a good look at themselves. That’s the only way we’ll get there, that’s the way to bounce back”.
The big news in the build-up to the game is that despite being reinstated to first-team training, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi have been left out once again. Now, you can justify the punishment of course. But, is Blanc cutting his nose off to spite his face here? This is a huge game, not only for the immediate future but also for the long term. Would it have been worth having the pair of them on the bench at least?
Our opponents ASSE rubbed salt into our wounds by jumping us into third in the Ligue 1 table following a 2-1 victory away to Stade de Reims. Christophe Galtier’s men are flying! Four straight victories in all competitions, unbeaten in five and haven’t tasted defeat domestically since the beginning of October when Toulouse beat them 1-0 thanks to Wissam Ben Yedder.
We beat them last season on our way to lifting the cup thanks to a 2-1 win in extra-time at the Parc des Princes. Who got the winner – and both goals actually – on the night? Edinson Cavani. I just hope for Blanc’s sake he knows what he is doing!