It’s easy to forget that France’s fallen giants Saint-Etienne were staving off relegation not so long ago.
The club’s improvement under Christophe Galter—from the desperate lows of 2009-2010 to the European qualification of recent years—has been sublime, with the club looking good for (at least) the Europa League again this year.
However, while the Stephanois will be desperate to secure a spot in Europe again next season, are they at risk of over-stretching themselves?
At times this season they have walked a fine line between success and failure.
Over the last few weeks, midfielder Max Gradel has stepped up to cover for the deficiencies of the attack, while the inspirational Loic Perrin continues to perform the duties of two men in a defence that has been shorn of many of its key men throughout the season. Defenders Jonathan Brison, Bayal Sall, Florentin Pogba and defensive midfielder Renaud Cohade are all currently absent.
Under these current conditions, it’s hard to imagine how ASSE’s thin squad would cope with the gruelling schedule of the Europa League.
Would participation threaten their terrific progress in Ligue 1 and risk plunging them back down again to the mediocrity of the last decade?