Ambroise Oyongo’s Montpellier almost certainly blew its chances of Europa League qualification last weekend with a disappointing home draw with lowly Amiens, although chances remain hanging, but only by a thread.
They now sit 7 points behind their hosts this evening, St-Etienne and 8 behind Olympique Lyonnais. Three games remain.
It was a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ for La Paillade, who had given their chances a boost by winning their previous game over champions, PSG, 2-1.
Circumstances have conspired against the Occitans too. Had PSG held onto their 2-0 lead in the Coupe de France Final, fifth place, the position Montpellier currently occupies in Ligue Un, would have been enough for Europa League inclusion, next season.
As everyone now knows, Presnel Kimpembe put through his own goal, Mbappe was red-carded and Stade Rennes came back to win on penalties, thus claiming the Europa League spot that might have been Montpellier’s.
But for St-Etienne, their sights are set on something much greater than Europa League qualification. Les Verts, France’s most decorated club, has a place in next season’s Champions League firmly in their sights. And that’s something that’s never happened. Indeed you must rewind to 1981 to find the last time ASSE played in Europe’s premier competition, then known simply and more accurately, as The European Champion Clubs’ Cup.
Unbeaten in their last 7 matches, drawing only 1, they now sit just one point behind bitter rivals Olympique Lyonnais, who currently occupy the last Champions League place. Lyon aren’t exactly in free-fall, but unexpected April defeats at home to Dijon and at Nantes have opened the door for St-Etienne.
It could all be in their own hands for St-Etienne after this weekend, should they prevail this evening over Oyongo’s team. Lyon must travel to Olympique Marseille on Sunday, where they’ll expect no favours from Les Phoceens.
Should St-Etienne win and Lyon drop points, wins in their last two games over Nice (home) and Angers (away), two clubs with nothing really left to play for, would be enough to see Les Verts back at Europe’s top table after a 38 year absence!
Lyon finish with a trip to Nimes, but their penultimate fixture could be tricky, should Caen, as seems likely, need the points to remain in the division.
At the foot of Ligue Un, Bordeaux and Toulouse should already have enough points to guarantee safety but the same cannot be said of the Monaco of Falcao, Fabregas, Chadli and Jovetic, sitting precariously one spot above the drop-line.
Champions, as recently as 2017, they now find themselves in the dogfight to avoid relegation. A key game for them will be the home encounter with fellow strugglers, Amiens, a point ahead, going into this week’s games. After that Les Monegasques must do it on the road, at Nimes, and along the coast at Nice, where they’ll get no favours.
But all of that will be academic, if the sides immediately below them, Caen and Dijon, fall out of reach. Caen’s most difficult game comes next weekend at Lyon, while the same day, Dijon’s is away to Paris, if PSG haven’t by then pulled down the shutters and gone home. But both have winnable home matches this weekend, Caen (v Reims) and Dijon (v Strasbourg), so the drama should at least extend another week.
It looks like Ambroise will have to wait at least another season before he plays international club football on a third continent after his appearances for the Impact in CCL and Cotonsport in the African Champions League. The straight fight between the French Football Royalty of St-Etienne, and the former club of Impact’s own, Remi Garde and Joel Bats, should see to that!
St-Etienne v Montpellier kicks off at 1445 EST today (Friday), and is available on the following networks: DAZN Canada, Fubo TV, beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada, Bet365, beIN SPORTS en Espanol, beIN SPORTS Canada.