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Europa League PREVIEW | St Étienne vs Anderlecht (29/09/16)

For both of these sides, this match could set the tone for the rest of their Europa League campaigns following their respective results on match day one.

ASSE failed to break the deadlock against Bundesliga side Mainz and opened their campaign with a rather disappointing 0-0 draw. Meanwhile, Belgian opponents Anderlecht defeated Qabala 3-1 at home, putting them top of the group.

The Belgians know that a win at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard will put them even further ahead of the chasing pack, and will feel that they can defeat Les Verts, but Christophe Galtier will know that his side desperately needs the three points if they are serious about finishing top of Group C.

St. Etienne will also have to keep an eye on the fitness of some of their stars players this Thursday evening as they travel to the Parc OL on Sunday to play their archrivals Olympique Lyonnais.

The form of ASSE has been sketchy at best, only managing 2 wins in their last 5 games in all competitions, with one of those victories coming this past Sunday as they defeated a struggling Lille side at home.

A win for St. Etienne would give them the ultimate confidence boost ahead of their clash with Lyon on Sunday, and would stand them in good stead to qualify from Group C.

Anderlecht, on the other hand, have been on fire in the Belgian Super League with 4 wins out of 5 in all competitions, a run that has seen them move up to second in the standings.

Their only defeat in that run was their last game at home against Westerlo, conceding the losing goal in the 85th minute. Nevertheless, the side will surely be full of confidence and will be optimistic that they can take all three points off of Christophe Galtier’s side.

Team News & Tactics:

Against Lille, St. Etienne lined up in a 3-4-3 formation that worked a treat in attack. Robert Beric and Nolan Roux benefited from the support they got from the extra attack and the 4 midfielders behind them, with both of them grabbing a goal each in the comprehensive victory.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they lined up with the same formation and players, but Christophe Galtier may want to reinforce his defence, wary of the attacking threat that Anderlecht pose both up front with Hamdi Harbaoui, and in the midfield with Leander Dendoncker and Nicolas Stanciu.

A 4-5-1 could be an option for ASSE, but Galtier may be tempted to stick with the 3-4-3 that worked so well this past week. If he wants to come out to win the game, a 3-4-3 would be best suited, but it’s also important that Les Verts don’t get overrun in the midfield and leave their defence wide open for counter attacks.

As for Anderlecht, their main threats come from the two midfielders in Leander Dendoncker and Nicolas Stanciu, with the latter being compared in his country to the Romanian legend Gheorgie Hagi.

In their 2-1 home loss to Westerlo, the Belgian side lined up in a 4-4-2 formation and dominated the possession, but couldn’t take their chances and ultimately paid the ultimate price for that.

Former Sevilla and Sporting Lisbon winger Diego Capel is also a huge threat down the wings, and despite being hauled off at half time against Westerlo his experience could be key.

A 4-4-2 would suit the Spaniard, but similarly to ASSE, Anderlecht will be wary of leaving themselves too open in the final third, and may be a bit more cautious in their approach.

19-year-old Youri Tielemans is out due to a ligament injury, and that will hamper Anderlecht’s midfield dynamism. The youngster has been linked with some of Europe’s top clubs, but this injury is a massive hindrance for both him and his club.

Danger Men:

Robert Beric (St. Etienne) – The striker has been in great form at the start of this season, scoring 3 goals in 6 games, and often being the key man in every game for ASSE.

The Slovenian hit man has slowly been recovering from his terrible ACL knee ligament injury that he only fully recovered from earlier this summer, but his form is a good signal that when Beric really is on top form, he could be a contender for top scorer in this seasons Europa League.

Nicolas Stanciu (Anderlecht) – Big things were expected from the Romanian at Euro 2016, but he, along with his country, failed to make any kind of impact this summer. His form for former side Steaua Bucharesti earned him a move to Belgium with Anderlecht, where he looks to make a name for himself in mainland Europe.

The Europa League is the perfect platform for a young star to emerge, and Stanciu has all the ability to make it in the game, living up to comparisons in his homeland to Gheorgie Hagi. A good performance against one of France’s toughest teams could be a good way to introduce him to European competition.

Prediction:

This game, much like St. Etienne’s clash last match day against Mainz, is so incredibly close to call. The French side’s victory over Lille gives them the advantage in terms of recent victories, but with Anderlecht being in formidable until their loss to Westerlo it could go either way.

The atmosphere at the Geoffroy-Guichard could be the factor that swings this game in favour of Les Verts, but the Belgian side are more than capable of pulling off a good victory to keep them atop of the Group C standings.

Prediction: St. Etienne 1-1 Anderlecht

T.S.

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