After the best first half of any Ligue 1 season in club history, Brest have the chance to show their success is no fluke with two games coming up against Paris Saint-Germain in little over a week.
A run of six wins in seven matches has catapulted the modest Brittany side up to third in the French top flight, a position which guarantees a place in next season’s Champions League group stage, AFP reports.
That reality remains a long way off for a club that have never finished higher than eighth in Ligue 1, in 1987, with several of their players — such as Bradley Locko, Lilian Brassier and Pierre Lees-Melou — drawing interest in the transfer market.
However, the prospect of facing Kylian Mbappe and PSG twice in 11 days is one that coach Eric Roy welcomes. After Sunday’s league meeting, the sides face off again at the Parc des Princes in the last 16 of the French Cup on February 7.
“There’s everything to gain in this type of match,” said former Sunderland midfielder Roy, who took charge of Brest at the start of 2023 with the team in the relegation zone.
Brest’s lone home defeat was a 3-2 loss to PSG in October, when Mbappe scored a minute from time after the hosts had fought back from two goals down. The France captain also grabbed a late winner at the Stade Francis-Le Ble last season.
“Here we made them doubt a little bit. We just fell short, like the year before, by a minute or two. We’ll see if we’re capable of doing better, but it will be an easy match to get ready for.”
Brest have built a winning formula based on a solid defence — with four successive clean sheets — and goals coming from various different sources. Kamory Doumbia, currently away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Mali, and Romain Del Castillo lead the way with five each.
“I think those who watch and follow us closely can say the points we’ve got, not many of them were stolen, and even in the four games we lost we could almost have regrets.”
With 34 points from 18 games, they lie nine adrift of PSG, who have won all 14 encounters with Brest since the Qatari takeover of the French champions in 2011.
Luis Enrique’s side hold an eight-point lead at the top following a 13-match unbeaten run. Nice, who host Metz on Saturday, remain second despite losing three of their past five matches.
Marseille will look to bounce back from last week’s cup exit with Monaco the visitors to the Velodrome, while Lille could muscle their way into the top four with victory at Montpellier on Sunday.
One to watch: Gift Orban
The Nigerian striker is set for his Lyon debut on Friday against Rennes after signing from Belgian side Gent earlier this month.
Orban, 21, was bought for an initial fee of 12 million euros ($13 million) as Lyon attempt to pull clear of relegation trouble in the second half of the season.
He scored 32 goals in 52 games for Gent following a move from Norwegian club Stabaek a year ago, but drifted in and out of the starting line-up this term after netting just three times in the league.
Alexandre Lacazette has accounted for eight of Lyon’s 17 goals as the spearhead of an otherwise youthful attack that includes Ernest Nuamah, Rayan Cherki — both 20 — and another new signing, 18-year-old Malick Fofana.
14 – Monaco have collected the most points in Ligue 1 after falling behind in a match, double the number of any other team.
16 – Lyon’s points tally is their lowest ever after 18 games of a season, according to Opta.
26 – PSG are unbeaten against Brest since 1985, a run comprising 19 wins and seven draws.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Lyon v Rennes (2000)
Nice v Metz (1600), Marseille v Monaco (2000)
Montpellier v Lille (1200), Lorient v Le Havre, Clermont v Strasbourg, Reims v Nantes (all 1400), Toulouse v Lens (1605), Paris Saint-Germain v Brest (1945)