Preview: Metz vs. Saint-Etienne – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Ligue 1 Playoffs clash between Metz and Saint-Etienne, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Reuniting at the Stade Saint-Symphorien for the second leg of their Ligue 1 relegation/promotion playoff tie, Metz and Saint-Etienne will discover their fates on Sunday afternoon.

Les Verts edged out their upcoming hosts 2-1 at a raucous Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Thursday evening, leaving them 90 minutes away from a coveted return to the big time.

Match preview

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Surviving automatic demotion to Ligue 2 by the skin of their teeth, Metz only managed to keep their heads above water on the final day thanks to a superior head-to-head away goals record against Lorient, whose 5-0 demolition of Clermont was ultimately for nought.

However, Les Grenats could very well join the two aforementioned outfits in the second division for 2024-25 as they arrive back on home territory with a one-goal deficit to make up, having shipped first on Thursday night courtesy of Ibrahim Sissoko‘s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-esque chip.

An unfortunate slip from Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Gautier Larsonneur allowed Ismael Traore to nod home the leveller on the stroke of the break, but with just 10 minutes of normal time left to play, Irvin Cardona showcased his own aerial prowess from another Mathieu Cafaro assist to spark bedlam.

As Alexandre Oukidja came for the delivery and missed, Cardona witnessed his deft header bounce into an open goal as Metz suffered that all-too familiar sinking feeling; Laszlo Boloni‘s outfit have now lost each of their last five matches, conceding multiple goals on each occasion.

Three of those reverses came at the Stade Saint-Symphorien, where Boloni’s men collected a paltry 12 points throughout the regular season – the joint-worst record in Ligue 1 alongside Nantes – but such trends must be bucked if Metz are to avoid a swift return to second-tier football.

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As Les Grenats hold out hope of a second-straight season in Ligue 1, Saint-Etienne need only hold what they have to end their brief absence from the big time, having seen their 18-year stay in the first division come to an end in a dire 2021-22 campaign.

Only managing to muster an eighth-placed finish last term, Les Verts – who have been crowned French football champions on 10 occasions – agonisingly missed out on automatic promotion to Auxerre and Angers, but a comfortable third-placed ranking means that a return to Ligue 1 would be fitting.

Two-nil victors over Rodez in their opening playoff tie, Olivier Dall’Oglio‘s side earned the triumph that their dominance warranted on Thursday evening and boasted the meanest defence on the road in the 2023-24 Ligue 2 season, shipping just 17 goals in their 19 away contests.

Saint-Etienne lost their way a bit on rival territory as the season drew to a close, though – prevailing in just one of their last four regular-campaign away matches – and the Stade Saint-Symphorien has traditionally been an unhappy hunting ground for the visitors.

Indeed, Metz have strung together a six-game unbeaten home sequence against Saint-Etienne – winning four of them while drawing another two – since Les Verts’ last success on Grenats soil in March 2015, when Christophe Galtier masterminded a thrilling 3-2 victory.

Metz Ligue 1 Playoffs form:

Metz form (all competitions):

Saint-Etienne Ligue 1 Playoffs form:

Saint-Etienne form (all competitions):

Team News

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Already coping without Ablie Jallow (dead leg), Joel Asoro and Benjamin Tetteh – the latter two of whom have been laid low by unspecified injuries – Metz boss Boloni was also forced to bring attacker Cheikh Sabaly off before the break on Thursday night.

It is still unclear how serious Sabaly’s concern is, but with limited recovery time to play around with, Kevin Van Den Kerkhof should be called upon to replace his stricken teammate on the right wing.

The 28-year-old will form part of the supporting cast for Georgian striker Georges Mikautadze, scorer of 13 regular-season goals for Metz, who are set to re-sign him permanently from Ajax before selling him again this summer.

Saint-Etienne did not emerge unscathed from the first leg either, as Moroccan midfielder Aimen Moueffek – hailed for a fine display at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard – was forced off 10 minutes before the end.

Lamine Fomba and Thomas Monconduit are among the alternative engine room options for Dall’Oglio, who is also unable to call upon Stephane Diarra (ACL) or Ibrahima Wadji (leg) for Sunday’s game.

Now boasting 24 goals for the season between them, prolific attacking duo Cardona and Sissoko will spearhead the charge alongside Cafaro, whose crucial contributions on Thursday took him up to 11 assists for the campaign.

Metz possible starting lineup:
Oukidja; Colin, Traore, Sane, Udol; Jacques, N’Doram, Camara; Van Den Kerkhof, Mikautadze, Lamkel Ze

Saint-Etienne possible starting lineup:
Larsonneur; Macon, Batubinsika, Nade, Petrot; Chambost, Tardieu, Fomba; Cardona, Sissoko, Cafaro

We say: Metz 1-1 Saint-Etienne (Saint-Etienne win 3-2 on aggregate)

Clean sheets on the road were Saint-Etienne’s forte throughout the regular season, although their previous defensive exploits may mean little against a fired-up Metz side boasting a free-scoring talisman in Mikautadze.

However, a Grenats outfit who already have trouble shutting out the opposition will only become more open with a necessary all-out attack approach, so Les Verts should register themselves and hold out for the draw required to reclaim their Ligue 1 status.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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