With the tie delicately poised following a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Ligue 1 promotion/relegation playoff, Saint-Etienne and Auxerre reconvene at the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard for Sunday’s return leg.
Zaydou Youssouf and Gaetan Perrin were on target for their respective sides on Thursday evening, and the quick turnaround will certainly not be kind on either set of legs.
Without the introduction of Pascal Dupraz into the Verts hotseat, Saint-Etienne may have very well been down and out by this point but have been presented with the opportunity to save their bacon in the playoffs, which did not get off to the best of starts for either side.
Zaydou Youssouf’s well-taken opener propelled Saint-Etienne into an early lead before goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni was called into action on several occasions, but he was eventually beaten in the 86th minute following Perrin’s delicate touch and accurate finish.
Not since the 2003-04 season have Saint-Etienne featured outside Ligue 1, but Dupraz’s side have chosen the worst time possible to endure a barren winless run, with the first-leg draw against Auxerre representing a seventh straight game without a victory for the hosts.
Furthermore, Saint-Etienne have now conceded at least one goal in each of their last 11 matches but will take some solace in the fact that they have scored in all of their home matches in 2022 so far, so goals should certainly be on the menu in a second leg with so much at stake.
The buoyant home crowd at the Stade de l’Abbé Deschamps were in a party mood as Auxerre’s final match of the 2021-22 season at their headquarters ended in a respectable way, but the Ligue 2 promotion hopefuls still have it all to do this weekend.
Jean-Marc Furlan is no stranger to achieving promotion to the big time – doing so on three occasions while in charge of Troyes and also leading Brest back to Ligue 1 in the 2018-19 season – so the visitors can consider themselves to be in good hands with the shrewd 64-year-old.
It has been a long and painful 10 years since Auxerre last plied their trade in the top division of French football, but the first-leg draw marked a 10th game without defeat in all tournaments for this weekend’s visitors, who seemingly possess the perfect recipe to avoid defeat on the road.
Indeed, Les Diplomates went unbeaten in their last 11 Ligue 2 away matches, and if Saint-Etienne’s home statistics did not already hint at a goal-laden affair, each of Auxerre’s last six games on their travels has seen both teams find the back of the net.
Auxerre may have suffered a 10-year absence from the top flight, but coincidentally, the side who have now gone unbeaten in 10 games over the past couple of months have strung together an identical run against Saint-Etienne, who have now drawn six and lost four against the second-tier hopefuls since a 2-0 home win in December 2008.
Saint-Etienne Ligue 1 Playoffs form:
Saint-Etienne form (all competitions):
Auxerre Ligue 1 Playoffs form:
Auxerre form (all competitions):
We say: Saint-Etienne 2-1 Auxerre (Saint-Etienne win 3-2 on aggregate)
Had it not been for the stellar work of Bernardoni, Saint-Etienne could have found themselves behind in the tie on Auxerre’s turf, but a couple of attacking tweaks will work in the hosts’ favour here.
The two sides’ respective goalscoring and conceding records makes it difficult to envisage either number one keeping a clean sheet, but with the raucous home crowd behind them, we expect Saint-Etienne to preserve their Ligue 1 status, end their hoodoo in this fixture and force Auxerre to prepare for an 11th season in the second tier