Josh Mart takes a chance to preview the final encounter of the group stages in the Europa league for St Etienne, who face a tricky trip to Ukraine to face Dnipro. With results going the way they did last time out, ASSE, Dnipro and Qarabag could all join Inter in qualifying for the knockout phase. St Etienne drew against Qarabag at home a few weeks ago which was remarkably their 5th in as many group stage games in this year’s competition. Dnipro lost at the San Siro but a win here over their French counterparts could quite easily see them qualify. It promises to be an interesting conclusion to the Europa League group stage.
Dnipro are currently suffering a poor run of form which has seen them fail to win in their last 5 games in all competitions, a run which stretches back to early November. Saturday’s 2-1 defeat away to Zorya was hugely disappointing for the Dnipropetrovsk side and it means they now sit 3rd in the Ukrainian Premier League, 8 points behind leaders and rivals Dynamo Kyiv. Despite their poor form though, Dnipro have left themselves in a position to qualify with a victory, so long as Inter help them out against Qarabag.
St Etienne on the other hand, are in sparkling form and have won their last 3 matches including a historic victory in the derby against bitter rivals Lyon a few weeks back. What is even more impressive is the fact that they are unbeaten (in all competitions) in 11 matches, a run which stretches back to October. Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Corsican side Bastia lifted Les Verts up to 4th in the Ligue 1 standings. Impressive stuff all round from Galtiers men. However, they are yet to win a group stage game in this year’s competition and a victory here would see them have a fantastic chance of qualification.
Team News and Tactics
I expect the hosts to lineup in a 4-4-1-1 formation with the ‘number 10’ position making up part of a 4-4-2 formation when attacking. Boyko is set to start in goals, with Douglas and Cheberyachko at the heart of the defence. Fedetskiy and Vlad could start in the right and left full back positions respectively. Kravchenko and the ever reliable Rotan could start in central midfield. I personally expect Bruno Gama or Nascimento to start on the right of the midfield to provide more attacking impetus. The jewel in Dnipro’s crown, Konoplyanka will start as ever, on the left of the midfield drifting inside to support the strikers. Zozulya is expected to support Kalinic in attack for the hosts.
ASSE do have a few injury concerns as Clement and Erdinc are out whilst Clerc and Hamouma are doubtful.
With this in mind I expect Galtier to still stick to his typical 4-2-3-1 formation with Ruffier in goals as usual. Catherine and Brison could be the full backs with the solid pairing of Perrin and Sall at the heart of the defence. Lemoine should start in a holding role alongside either Diomande or Cohade. Due to Hamouma being a doubt, Tabanou could play in a more advanced role on the left side of the attacking midfielders, alongside Corgnet and the pacey Gradel. Van Wolfswinkel, who missed so many chances against Qarabag should lead the line for Les Verts.
Konoplyanka (Dnipro)- Yehven Konoplyanka has many admirers all over the continent and his name is always linked with major teams from the major leagues across Europe. Konoplyanka is positively unpredictable with fantastic dribbling abilities and the ability to score from any distance. ASSE will have to mark him tightly.
Sall (ASSE)- Despite him not being an obvious danger man, in terms of his defensive position, Sall causes opposition strikers no end of problems due to his pace and immense strength. He and Perrin have formed a good partnership which has led to Les Verts only conceding 2 goals in this season’s group phase. He is always a threat attacking set plays too.
With the fate of these two teams out of their hands it is hard to predict the outcome of this one as both need a win to have a clear chance of going through. Qarabag are up against Inter but the Italian side have won the group with ease and may play a weakened side. I expect events in Azerbaijan to be closely monitored by both benches but both teams should try to focus on doing all they can and win the game.
Prediction: Dnipro 1-1 ASSE