Lee Davey previews the long trip that Saint Étienne face to Ukraine for part one of the double header with Dnipro on Thursday evening hoping to keep alive their hopes of Europa League progression in what is turning out to be a very tight group G.
Les Verts are currently bottom of the group on goal difference but are only one win away from potentially topping the group such is the competition in Group G.
Last time out Christophe Galtier’s men were hugely impressive despite being down to nine men which resulted in a 3-2 reverse in Rome against Lazio.
As a result Robert Beric and Moustapha Bayal Sall will both serve their suspensions at the Dnipro Arena, a situation that will frustrate Galtier, who will want to put out a strong side to keep alive St Étienne’s chances of reaching the knockout stages of the competition.
Fresh from Saturday’s 2-0 Ligue 1 win at home to lowly Gazelec Ajaccio, Les Verts will fancy their chances of getting a result on Thursday night in Eastern Ukraine.
St Étienne and Dnipro already know each other well as the two teams were drawn in the same group in last season’s competition. Dnipro ran out 1-0 winners in Ukraine, with the return in France ending goalless. Dnipro’s games in last season’s competition were played in Kiev, so they we be delighted to be back at the Dnipro Arena where they have a good European record of 10 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats from 14 games.
Should St Étienne show the same tenacity and belief as they portrayed in the Stadio Olimpico three weeks ago then the Ligue 1 side have enough pace and offensive threat to worry the Ukrainians.
If Saint Étienne harbour ambitions of playing Champions League football next season, then Galtier’s men must start to produce in UEFA’s second competition and Group G is producing the types of challenges that Les Verts must start to overcome.
Last season’s runners-up Dnipro have made a good start to the Europa League so far this term with four points from their opening two games with two goals scored. Three points on Thursday will cement their place as favourites along with Lazio to progress from the Group.
The Ukrainians will be hoping to go one better this season after losing out in the final last season to eventual winners Sevilla in the final in Warsaw in May.
Dnipro currently sit in third place in the Ukrainian Premier League, five points behind joint leaders Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk and Myron Markevych’s men are coming into the game off the back of a 6-0 away league win. This is Dnipro’s 100th UEFA Cup/ Europa League game and they will be hoping to celebrate that milestone with three points that could put a huge dent in their opponent’s changes of reaching the knockout phase.
As previously mentioned St Étienne will have to overcome the loss of Beric and Sall but can call upon Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and Nolan Roux to fill the void. Christophe Galtier could rotate his team on Thursday with one eye on his side’s mouth-watering trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday Evening.
With a pivotal week looming, and a near 5000 km round trip on Thursday, Galtier may need to utilise his squad to its potential if Les Verts are taking anything from their next two games.
After Thursday’s game, Dnipro do not play again until next Wednesday, affording the Ukrainians the luxury of fielding a full strength team. It would be no surprise to see Markevych stick with the same team that demolished Stal Dniprodzerzhynsk 6-0 on Saturday afternoon.
Players to Watch
St Étienne’s captain and talisman has been in tremendous form and his heroic performance against Lazio on match day two further underlines his importance in the St Étienne team. If ASSE are to take a share of the spoils or more then Galtier will look to his captain to inspire his team in Ukraine.
Perrin’s positional play as well as his key presence at set plays – at both ends of the pitch – will provide Les Verts with the guidance they will need to overcome this tough fixture.
The Ukrainian striker is Dnipro’s top scorer this season and will provide the main goal threat on Thursday evening. The 30 Year old who scored the only goal in on match day two in a 1-0 win at Rosenborg will be hoping he can continue his impressive early season form adding to the 9 goals he already has to his name this term – 4 of those coming in last Saturday’s league win.
Seleznyov has so far struck up a strong partnership with the Brazilian winger Matheus Nascimento who has also chipped in with 4 goals this season. Both players will be expected to start on Thursday and St Étienne will need to keep a close eye on the pair.
St Étienne will once again give a good account of themselves but suspensions, the conditions and home advantage will just favour the Ukrainians. An entertaining game awaits with the home side claiming a narrow win.
Dnipro 2-1 St Étienne