Friday, April 20, 2012

TGIF .............


A watching brief on last night's Europa League games was the correct way to go, but our outright bet on Valencia at big odds now looks in trouble following that 4-2 defeat in Madrid, but they did grab a lifeline with that late, late second goal, so things could have been even worse ahead of the return leg at the Mestalla. We can return to that next week, for now, a hugely busy weekend in prospect and plenty to discuss today, with three Ligue 2 previews and a quick look at one other fixture, with a big bearing on the Conference playoffs.


Let's start with those league table standings since Christmas, which I have just updated, very notable last week that Monaco and Arles both won again, they have been the big improvers since the holiday break and show no signs of easing up just yet, collecting an impressive 70% and 63% of their points over the last fourteen rounds, Le Mans also edge into the "improvers", their hard fought win over Amiens giving them 59%.

Going the other way are Metz and Le Havre who have each collected just 27% of their points over those 14 games , followed by Boulogne with 28% and Guingamp with 32%, but they at least stopped the rot with a 3-0 thumping of Laval last week. All percentages have been rounded up.

League table since Christmas ( 14 rounds)

BASTIA ...................... 32 pts
MONACO .................. 30
SEDAN....................... 28
ARLES ....................... 26
TROYES .................... 25
LE MANS.................... 23
TOURS........................ 22
ISTRES....................... 21
NANTES ................... 20
LENS ......................... 19
REIMS........................ 18
CLERMONT.............. 15
ANGERS.................... 14
LAVAL ....................... 13
GUINGAMP................ 13
LE HAVRE................. 10
METZ ......................... 10
AMIENS .................... 10
BOULOGNE ............. 9



Amiens : Bonnefoi, Ruffier - Lybohy, Mienniel, Cirilli, Ielsch, Baudry, Enza Yamissi, Poirier, Kodjia, Kharbouchi, Saifi, Touzghar, Koubemba, M'Changama, Puyo, Mohamed, Bazile.

Istres : Petric, Menetrier - Sainati, Chelle, Barillon, Flegeau, Kehiha, Melliti, Ba, Agouazi, Fettouhi, Tarasconi, Nouri, Akrour, De Préville, Yahia-Chrif.



Boulogne : Gurtner, Bague - Rimane, Colin, Lecointe, Touré, Gace, Karuru, Ducatel, Oliveira, Bru, Reale, Capoue, Allart, Salibur, Rèset, Sakho.

Clermont : Farnolle, Moulin - Avinel, Esor, Fomen, Landre, Saiss, Alessandrini, Bayod, Ekobo, Moullec, Namli, Sylla, Dembélé, Djabbour, Morel.



Lens : Fabre, Kasraoui - Bergdich, Rémy, Yahia, Berenguer, Ben Saada, Coeff, Cuvillier, Démont, Ducasse, Kondogbia, Sow, Koïta, Pollet, Toudic.

Metz : M'Fa, Sissoko - Abdoulaye, Métanire, Tamboura, Besle, Wagué, Guerriero, Fleurival, Bouby, Diaz, Ngbakoto, Pouye, Delort, Duhamel, N'Sor.


Two and three rounds respectively left to play for, for these two clubs , but a limited amount to play for this evening. Wrexham have gone toe to toe with Fleetwood for the title for almost eight months, are already assured of second place and top ranking in the playoffs and will be looking to recharge what must be some mentally drained batteries ahead of the post season. I think it is worth noting that the only time we have seen the "real" Wrexham in the couple of weeks since their chance for top spot had gone, was in the match at Fleetwood, when they wanted to put the champion's official celebrations on hold for a week. It would have been too much to see their big rival's unbridled joy in person. They could reach 100 points with three wins, which I assume would be some kind of record for a non title winning side, but that would be a very tall order and in a perverse way would probably only make them feel worse ! Town have been in great form, going 14-4-2 over their last 20 starts, they need a point to ensure they finish in third place and that will enable them to rest players for the match at Kidderminster next week.

So, a little more for the hosts on the line, they also have a fine record under floodlights, being unbeaten in their last 12 evening kick offs, including a draw with Fleetwood and 3-1 win over Wrexham in the reverse fixture, that sequence also included two games against Luton Town and given the quality of some of those opponents, makes the stat all the more impressive. The visitors also have a Wales derby game with Newport in midweek and that might be their main focus ahead of the playoffs. Neither team will want to give too much away either, given the potential of the pair meeting in the Wembley final and we can expect both to rotate their squads, home boss Paul Cox, who has just signed a new two year contract has a fully fit squad to choose from,but
the Stags boss must decide on whether or not to risk using his key players on what is likely to be a very heavy playing surface after a lot of rain in the UK this week, which is a bit of an understatement. He said “I will play the strongest side I feel can win both games with an eye on the two most important games of our season – the play-off semis."
“We need to keep everyone fully match-fit and sharp so anyone who is fit will play. But I may have to be very shrewd in what 16 I choose to win two football matches.”
Cox warned: “What we’ve done for the last 44 games now counts for nothing. We will be judged on the two semi-final games and the final if we get there."
“Some people may think we’ve had a great season. Well I am hoping we still have five games left and there is still a lot to play for."
“The hard work actually starts now and I have got to get that across to the players."

Hard game to call, team news is key, but this is also the Stags last home start and they will want to take their momentum into the post season, they won the earlier game, arrive in better form having won their last four, the Dragons have not won in four and given Town's record under the lights, I would just about favour them, but will stick with my far stronger news for the Ligue 2 games.

Two emails tomorrow, the first at the normal time and a follow up at 14.00, when I will pass on any late news received through the morning.

Good Luck.


UPDATE ..... added at 11.00 UK time.

I wanted to write about this match in the main email, but was waiting on confirmed team news and when I got it, was a little confused ( see below) ! So wanted to give the match a little further thought.

No further bets, but I can declare a small interest in Nantes to win at Laval at up to 3.20 , the hosts do not lose too many at home, just five in the last two seasons, but one came just two games ago and they are short of options tonight, with several players missing and lacking a natural right back. They were very poor at Guingamp, who were claiming only their third win of 2012 last week. I see that four players previously listed as injured/unavailable have made the Laval squad, none of them featured last week and were said to be out again this, either a bit of trickery from the coaching staff, miracle work in the treatment room, or more likely, a bit of desperation (!), with Laval now just three points off the drop, having been seventh just nine weeks ago.

Nantes found a way to beat top 3 side Reims on Monday, despite being without both starting full backs in Jonathan Martins Pereira and Olivier Veigneau , they return tonight and six points off the promotion spots, with just six rounds to play only a win is going to help their cause, but if it comes, a nice looking fixture list and the second and third placed teams facing each other tonight, might keep the dream alive for another week or two.

The visitors remain a very big club at this level and have won the Ligue 1 title and both domestic cups in the last dozen years, it would not take too much to get this juggernaut up and running. Certainly coach Landry Chauvin who is said to be on borrowed time has extra incentive to put in a strong finish to the campaign.

Nantes have taken four points and not conceded from their two most recent visits here and have lost just once in 15 h2h meetings, but some of those were a long time ago.

Laval : Balijon, Hautbois - Signorino, Talmont, Pallois, Perrot, Rose, Gonçalvès, Levrat, Losilla, Renouard, Le Baron, Lebouc, Do Marcolino, Viale, Gimbert.

Nantes : Riou, Zelazny - Alhadhur, Cissokho, Djilobodji, Krychowiak, Martins Pereira, Veigneau, Bessat, Keita, Trébel, Veretout, Bangoura, Le Tallec, Pancrate, Raspentino, Wiltord.

Good Luck.

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