This Thursday, Saint Etienne will begin their Europa League campaign for the 2016/17 season, but would have been hoping for a kinder opening fixture when the draw was made late August.
A poor start to their Ligue 1 season means that the Europa League could actually be a welcoming distraction for Les Verts, and will be looking to this Thursday’s clash against the German club as a way to kick start their season.
The German club have made a similarly poor start to their Bundesliga campaign, falling to a 2-1 away defeat to Borrusia Dortmund, then letting a 4-1 half time lead slip against Hoffenheim leaving them 14th in the German top division.
St. Etienne will be using the Europa League as a distraction, but so will Mainz, who hope that a win against the Ligue 1 side will spring board them in a rich vain of form.
Team News & Tactics
Looking at how St. Etienne lined up last Friday against Paris Saint-Germain, it could be possible that the French side will line up with a 3-5-1-1 that saw the steal a point away at the Parc des Princes. The formation left Nolan Roux isolated at the top of the pitch, but allowed Les Verts to sit deep and attempt to nullify the PSG attacks.
The 5-man-midfield gave the side Christophe Galtier’s side a better chance to squeeze the midfield and not allow PSG to have time on the ball, and they will be looking to do the same against Mainz, who will want to be on the attack from first whistle in front of their own fans.
Mainz, on the other hand, needs to sort out the issues they’ve had in recent weeks at the back. They may have a lot of firepower up front in the forms of Jhon Cordoba, Pablo De Blasis and Levin Oztunali, but as the weekend collapse against Hoffenheim showed, they are suspect defensively.
In the same game, Mainz played a 4-1-4-1 formation and it worked well for the large majority of the game, which is something that could be interesting if Les Verts line up with the 3-5-1-1.
With St. Etienne, their options coming off the bench could turn the tie in the favour if the game is goalless going into the latter stages. Robert Beric came off the bench to grab a late equalizer last Friday, and could be a huge player to bring on to either partner Nolan Roux or replace the Frenchman.
The depth within the St. Etienne will be what potentially gives them the advantage in the game between the two evenly matched teams.
The before mentioned Beric along with Romain Hamouma and Kevin Monnet-Paquet did not start against PSG, and could remain on the bench which emphasizes how important the bench could be for Les Verts.
Henri Saivet, Saint-Etienne
The Senegal international was brought into the club this summer to add a bit more creativity to their midfield, and whilst he hasn’t started as well as he’d have hoped this could be the chance for Saviet to shine.
The 25-year-old could hold the key for a win in Germany, but having only played two games for his new club he may need time to settle into the rhythm under Christophe Galtier.
If Saviet can get a strong hold of the game and get himself on the ball, he could run riot against the Bundesliga club.
Levin Oztunali, Mainz
The Turkish born German may only be 20 years of age, but the midfielder has been touted as one of the top young talents in Europe for many years.
Coming through the youth ranks at Hamburg, Oztunali made his name with Bayer Leverkusen and with Werder Bremen, but it’s with Mainz where the midfielder could become one of the hottest talents in Europe.
Thursday’s game could be a chance to introduce himself to a larger audience, not that those in the green on the side of ASSE will be hoping that!
Prediction: Mainz 1-1 St. Etienne
[Image: France Bleu]