'The two teams are in knock-out mood'
PREVIEW: Stade Francais host Lyon on Friday seeking a fifth consecutive league win that would go a long way in helping the capital side into the Top 14 play-offs.
Going into the penultimate weekend of regular-season action, Stade are currently sitting in seventh on 62 points, the same as Toulon – who play third-placed Bordeaux-Begles (72pts) on Saturday – in sixth.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm,” said Stade coach Gonzalo Quesada. “To be playing a match like this at this time of the season is a real bonus.
“We want to keep on dreaming, even if we haven’t got our fate completely in our own hands.”
Stade go into the Lyon game on the back of four impressive victories, beating Pau (46-32), Racing 92 (35-29), Brive (31-28) and Montpellier (32-10). They round out their season with a trip to relegation-battlers Bayonne next week.
But breathing down the Parisians’ necks are Castres and Lyon, in eighth and ninth places, both on 60 points.
“The two teams are in knock-out mood,” former Argentina flyhalf Quesada said of Friday’s match.
“Lyon coach Pierre Mignoni has already said that it’s almost already a play-off game.
“They will be more experienced given their form against us over recent seasons. As for us, we have that need to win to stay alive for a few more weeks and, for the moment, that gives us a boost!”
Fullback Kylan Hamdaoui will make his comeback from injury for Stade against Lyon, telling AFP that the squad was “motivated – there’s no other word!”
“Lyon are direct competition in the race to qualify for the play-offs, so it’s a massive game,” Hamdaoui said.
“For some time now we’ve been playing out our season match by match. What’s great is that we have our destiny in our hands, but that means winning matches.”
Lyon go into the match on the back of five successive wins over Stade dating back to 2018, and the club said the players “have no choice, they must win!”
“The goal is clear for Lyon: two victories in their last two matches to bag a play-off spot.”
Importantly, Lyon host already-relegated, winless Agen in their final game of the regular season, a match in which they would target maximum points.
Also in the hunt for a play-off spot, eighth-placed Castres (60pts) travel to Brive before hosting Toulon in their final match.
Clermont, currently in fifth place on 67 points, are away at league leaders Toulouse in Saturday’s late game, while fourth-placed Racing (68pts) play at Agen.
It is a big weekend at the bottom of the table as well. With Agen already relegated, it appears to be between second-bottom Pau (41pts) and Bayonne (44pts) to face the second division play-off winners in another play-off to see who will feature in next season’s Top 14.
Pau have the daunting task of travelling to European Cup finalists La Rochelle, who are one point behind leaders Toulouse and eager to book a home semifinal, while Bayonne are also on the road at European Challenge Cup winners Montpellier (50pts).
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Stade Francais v Lyon (19.45)
Toulon v Bordeaux-Begles (13.45)
Agen v Racing 92
Brive v Castres
La Rochelle v Pau
Montpellier v Bayonne (all 16.00)
Toulouse v Clermont (20.05)