Uefa Cup Preview: Saint-Étienne - Rosenborg

What: UEFA Cup, Group G, Matchday 2
Who: AS Saint-Étienne vs. Rosenborg BK
When: Thursday 6th November, 20:45 CET
Where: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Éteinne
Three Strikes And You’re Out!

High hopes have made way for frustration in Saint-Étienne as fans have been left bitterly disappointed with the performances of les Verts this season. Widely tipped as outside bets to finish in the top four in France, Sainté currently lie in 17th spot, with four league defeats chasing them into this clash with Rosenborg.

It has been the manner of these defeats that has really embarrassed the club, who conceded only four league goals at home during last season. This fantastic record home record has quickly been forgotten as a 2-0 defeat against Grenoble was swiftly followed by a humbling 4-1 loss to Lorient.

As a result, head coach Laurent Roussey has been officially given an ultimatum by the club, which effectively gives him until Sunday for results to improve. Sainté’s board have given Roussey, who took over from Ivan Hasek in the summer of 2007, three games to improve the team’s fortunes.

The first was a loss against Marseille last Saturday night. It was a game Sainté played reasonably well in at times but their terrible defending was to cost them as two goals were lost from corner kicks. Rosenborg represent the second of the crucial triad, with Rennes to come on Sunday.

Europe has been a major part of Sainté’s dreams all season, with the already vociferous ultras (who invaded the team’s facilities as a protest to recent poor performances) stirred into something of a frenzy by the UEFA Cup.

Echoing the views of the support, the board stated, “It is imperative that we win on Thursday against Rosenborg to qualify in the UEFA Cup and, therefore, be able to devote our energies to Ligue 1,” in the press released explaining that les Verts have three games to improve.

But it has not just been the players who have received criticism during this difficult period. Co-preisdent Roland Romeyer was quoted in the press criticising a number of players in a private function.

Among those singled out were striker Bafé Gomis (pictured), who was branded big-headed, David Gigliotti, quoted as being lazy and, most severely of all, Japanese summer signing, Daisuke Matsui, whom Romeyer has allegedly asked if he is a body-double for the ‘real’ Japanese star Sainté took from Le Mans in the summer.

Troubled time indeed.

No Time To Break


Rosenborg’s relatively poor season does not appear to have been anything like as acrimonious as the spell that Sainté are enduring at present. Previously dominant in Norway, Rosenborg’s grasp on domestic domination is well and truly loosened, with a second consecutive fifth placed finish representing another disappointing season for the Trondheim side.

It could be argued that this season was even worse than last term for RBK as they picked up only 39 points from their 26 Tippeligaen matches as opposed to the 41 they accrued last term

The season ended in disappointment last weekend as Rosenborg lost out 3-1 to Bodø/Glimt at home, a result that means it has been four matches in all competitions since they won.

There was little inspiring about their scoreless draw against Bruges a fortnight ago, with the Norwegian side easily contained by Belgian opponents who seemed quite content to take a draw and attempt to hit their hosts on the counter-attack.

Much better will be needed to take anything away from Saint-Étienne, whatever the Loire club’s struggling state. Rosenborg’s abysmal record in France will certainly not do anything to boost their confidence as the club has lost 7-2 to PSG and 5-0 to Lyon in recent times.

Another worrying sign for the Norwegian club is that Stabaek, the new champions of the country, were ousted out of the UEFA Cup at the first round stage when they met Rennes, who, like Rosenborg, qualified for the competition via the Intertoto Cup. The Breton club finished marginally below Sainté in Ligue 1 last term yet disposed of Stabaek with some degree of ease, winning both legs of their match.

But it should not underestimated just how good a job that Erik Hamrén has done with Rosenborg, who were really toiling in the league after losing four of their opening six matches.

“He arrived with a totally different outlook on football and training, helped us with our diet and how to handle the media,” explained Alexander Tettey to UEFA’s official website, “Little things that add up and have helped us perform better on the pitch.”

If Hamrén rejuvenated Rosenborg’s Tippeligaen campaign so impressively, he can do the same with RBK’s UEFA Cup dreams. A win tomorrow night would give Rosenborg a great springboard for qualification.

TEAM NEWS

Saint-Étienne

Injuries have played a part in Saint-Étienne’s recent struggles, with a number of first team players dropping out of the squad because of knocks. The most recent injury victims are club captain Loïc Perrin, who is generally used as the right-back but can also operate in midfield, and central defender Sylvain Monsoreau. With left-back Dabo also missing, Sainté are without three-quarters of their defensive line.

This situation is made even more acute as Bayal Sall as a worldwide ban until December 9th while midfielder Christophe Landrin will also sit out this match.

A rare piece of good news for Laurent Roussey is that Brazilian forward player Ilan will return.

Predicted line-up: Janot; Varrault, Sauget, Tavlaridis, Benalouane; Machado, Matuidi; Dernis, Payet, Ilan; Gomis

Rosenborg

With no future league matches to worry about, Rosenborg boss Erik Hamrén can approach the future three UEFA Cup matches with something of a gung-ho attitude to his squad selection – where other coaches may be tempted to rotate, he has no need.

Rosenborg, who are missing only Kris Stradsgaard according to their official website, will play in their typical 4-4-2 diamond formation, which the coach favours.

Predicted line-up:
Jarstein; Lustig, Demidov, Nordvik, Dorsin; Sapara, Tettey, Skejbred, Strand; Iverson, Ya Konan

PLAYERS TO WATCH


Saint-Étienne

Although French internationalist Bafetimbi Gomis is the most likely scorer for Sainté, young winger-come-forward Dimitri Payet has provided a great spark in the team since Pascal Feindouno left in the autumn for the Middle East.

Quick, skilful and with an eye for goal that is improving all the time, expect Payet to cause Rosenborg some real problems on Thursday evening. At just 21 years of age, he is a player with a promising future in the game.

Rosenborg

Rosenborg are not the force in Europe that they once were and now possess few of the star names that saw them regularly conquer top European sides at home. One of their players who has been around the block and could prove crucial to Thursday’s game is former Tottenham Hotspur striker Steffen Iverson.

Although he was something of a flop in London, Iverson has shown a rare goal scoring ability during his time in Norway, finding the net at a rate of around three goals in four games since rejoining his formative club in 2006.

Rosenborg are unlikely to get too many chances but, given an opening, Iverson is a man capable of scoring.

PREDICTION

Last season Rosenborg proved that they can still be a threat in Europe by twice beating Valencia 2-0 in the Champions League. The club does not seem to have that same spark about it this time around and will struggle against a Saint-Étienne side that has saved its best performances for the European stage. With Laurent Roussey’s job on the line, Sainté will come through in a testing encounter.

Saint-Étienne 2-0 Rosenborg BK