EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) has a fancy in France to follow up his opening winner for 2019/20.
St Etienne v Brest | Sunday 18th August 2019, 14:00 | BT Sport
St Etienne kicked-off their new Ligue 1 campaign with a stodgy 2-1 success at Dijon in Ghislain Printant’s first game in charge. The former assistant under Jean-Louis Gasset’s watch is expected to add consistency and continuity to ASSE after Sainte claimed a very worthy fourth-placed finish last term.
Romain Hamouma and new signing Jean-Eudes Aholou put St Etienne two goals up inside the first 15 minutes of the opener, and whilst Les Verts weren’t able to sustain their fast start, Printant was pleased with his team’s performance, whilst also suggesting some of his starting XI weren’t 100% conditioned just yet.
The extra week on the training ground should ensure Sainte are up to speed on Sunday and Les Verts should be capable of making home advantage count when newly-promoted Brest arrive. The hosts are ruthless operators at their Stade Geoffroy-Guichard base, especially so when entertaining Ligue 1’s lesser lights.
ASSE have bagged W14-D5-L1 when hosting bottom-half teams over the past two terms, with St Etienne bagging W13-D2-L1 when excluding the top three teams in 2018/19. The hosts have seen Remy Cabella depart but the return of Ryad Boudebouz softens the blow, whilst the spine of side is intact with Stephane Ruffier, Loic Perrin, Yann M’Vila and Whabi Khazri still in situ.
Brest exposed in the Loire
Brest returned to Ligue 1 for the first time since 2013 and started their season with a 1-1 home draw against Toulouse. The Ligue 2 runners-up made the early running, out-playing a Toulouse side lacking inspiration going forward, but were unable to see out the showdown after conceding late on.
La Team Pirate excelled in the second-tier with the division’s most clinical attacking output and incoming boss Olivier Dall'Oglio promised to follow the same principles. But Dall'Oglio was left frustrated by his side’s profligacy in front of goal, despite admitting he was pleased with his team’s application.
The challenge for Brest now is turning promise and potential into points. The visitors only triumphed eight times on their travels last term, including only twice at teams in 12th and above. A trip to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard is rarely for the feint-hearted and it’s difficult to imagine the underdogs making inroads.
Figures published in French sports daily L'Équipe last week highlight the disparity between the two teams with Sainte boast a €100m annual playing budget – €70m more than Brest – and ultimately that sort of imbalance and inequality is likely to prove pivotal more often than not.
St Etienne are a 4/6 shot on Sunday but I’m boosting the price to 19/20 (Coral) by chucking Under 4.5 Goals into the mix. Only one of ASSE’s home encounters last season featured four or more goals, whilst almost 93% of their Stade Geoffroy-Guichard games since 2013/14 have produced fewer than five goals.
St Etienne v Brest – St Etienne to win and Under 4.5 Goals (19/20 Coral)