FRANCE: Saint-Etienne in the Champions League?

France

Why St Etienne could qualify for the Champions League this season…

Last weekend’s draw against PSG extended St Etienne’s unbeaten run to 10 games in Ligue 1 and les Verts dreams of a top three finish look to be well and truly on.

St Etienne battled from two goals down to rescue a point against PSG last time out and Christophe Galtier’s side currently sit two points behind Marseille and three points behind Lyon in fourth place.

Galtier has invested wisely in his ranks this term and the former assistant coach’s dealings in the transfer market have been exceptionally astute.

Right back Francois Clerc arrived on a free transfer from Nice and the France international’s strike at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard last weekend helped maintain St Etienne’s unbeaten start in 2013.

Clerc has been an ever present for les Verts this season and the 29-year old has been a crucial part of Galtier’s impressive back-line that boasts the second best defensive record in the league.

Galtier has picked a largely consistent side this season with captain Loic Perrin leading by example in the heart of the St Etienne defence.

Left back Jonathan Brison is another to have featured heavily for Galtier, but Brison’s previous playing history with winger Yohan Mollo at Nancy has made the St Etienne left flank one of the best attacking outlets in Galtier’s side.

Mollo has hit four goals and four assists in just nine starts since arriving on loan and the France under-21 international looks an increasingly promising player in the green of St Etienne.

Of course a lot of St Etienne’s praise has rightly fallen at the feet of Gabon striker Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang, who has been involved in exactly half of St Etienne’s 48 goals in Ligue 1 this term.

Aubameyang has gone on to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s closest rival this season with 16 goals and the surroundings in central France have proved to be the perfect setting for the African forward to flourish.

Strike partner Brandao (nine goals in 14 starts) is another who has impressed in attack for St Etienne and the Brazilian forward was quickly snapped up by Galtier following his release from Marseille.

Les Verts play Troyes, Evian, Valenciennes and Ajaccio over the next month and the chance for St Etienne to close the gap on their more illustrious rivals seems encouraging.

St Etienne welcome Marseille to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on the 18th May and les Verts Champions League hopes could hinge on the outcome of their penultimate game of the season.

Jonathan Day

Jonathan is a leading football writer who specialises in European and Premier League football. Jonathan currently writes for Sportingly Better, a football betting blog that provides free football tips and betting predictions. Follow Sportingly Better on Facebook or Twitter for all the latest betting tips.

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