Auxerre’s first game back in Ligue 1 for the 2022-23 season sees them travel to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy to face dethroned champions Lille on Sunday.
Les Dogues could only muster a 10th-placed finish under Jocelyn Gourvennec last season, while their visitors overcame Saint-Etienne in the playoffs to rise into the top tier.
Much was made of Jocelyn Gouvennec’s appointment to the Lille hotseat last term after Christophe Galtier took up a new adventure with Nice, and despite kicking off his reign with Trophee des Champions success over Paris Saint-Germain, the following months were dissatisfactory to say the least.
Making it through to the last-16 of the Champions League did lead to muted cheers within the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, but they were quickly dispatched by Chelsea, but their Coupe de France run ended in the last-32 stage, and a futile challenge for the European places did not materialise.
The Dogues board have sought to address such managerial concerns by welcoming former Roma boss Paulo Fonseca to the dugout for the 2022-23 campaign, but a mass exodus of players has seen Renato Sanches, Sven Botman, Zeki Celik, Burak Yilmaz and Xeka all depart.
Mohamed Bayo represents the only statement signing for Lille so far – joining for a £12.6m fee from Clermont – and he will hope to form an effective partnership in the final third with Jonathan David, who has hinted that this year will be his last at the French club.
Fonseca’s side overcame Cadiz, drew with Las Palmas and lost to Espanyol in their Spain-themed pre-season period, and they welcome Auxerre to their headquarters seeking to post just a second win from six home games in Ligue 1 since the start of April.
Neither Ajaccio nor Toulouse were prepared to be usurped by Auxerre in their bids to earn automatic promotion back to the top division, and Jean-Marc Furlan’s side were forced to pit their wits against Saint-Etienne in the playoffs for their chance to join their Ligue 2 counterparts.
After two 1-1 draws home and away, the dreaded penalty shootout would decide the fate of the two sides for the 2022-23 season, and Auxerre dispatched all five of their penalties while Ryad Boudebouz failed to convert for Saint-Etienne, ultimately sending them down.
The disgraceful scenes of flare-wielding Saint-Etienne fans storming the pitch and crowding both sets of players overshadowed what should have been a joyous occasion for Auxerre, who are back in Ligue 1 for the first time since their 2011-12 relegation.
Furlan’s side have not exactly made waves in the transfer market, but the additions of Benoit Costil and Denys Bain will provide some much-needed experience of the Ligue 1 landscape, and they won four of their five final pre-season friendlies ahead of Sunday’s opener.
Lille and Auxerre did lock horns in last season’s Coupe de France third round, and Les Dogues ran out comfortable 3-1 winners on the day, but a much-changed XI will take to the field for the hosts this time around.
Lille pre-season form:
Auxerre pre-season form:
We say: Lille 2-0 Auxerre
Lille’s reshuffled defence may take a bit of time to gel with one another, but they should not be troubled by Auxerre this weekend, as Furlan’s side experience a baptism of fire on their return to the big time.
The visitors may have got the better of Ligue 1 opposition in Saint-Etienne last season, but the Fonseca revolution ought to begin in winning fashion for Les Dogues here.