It might not be a fixture that dominates headlines nationwide or makes waves internationally – like the Classique between Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille also being played on Sunday – but the Derby of the East is a huge game in its own right.
Metz and Strasbourg have been playing against each other since the 1930s and the early days of a formal league set-up in France. The clubs are rivals on the pitch, but a common history brings the two cities close together. Metz is the major city in the old region of Lorraine, while Strasbourg dominates neighbouring Alsace, the region which straddles France’s border with Germany. Both cities became part of the German Empire in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War before returning to France at the end of World War I.
These days it takes barely two hours to travel the roughly 160 kilometres that separate Metz and Strasbourg by road, hardly anything in a country like France where distances can – in European terms at least – be vast.
Watch: Metz stun Lens with Asoro winner
There have not been too many top-flight meetings between the sides in recent years, given Metz’s tendancy to yo-yo up and down between the divisions and Strasbourg’s spell of almost a decade away from the elite before they came back up in 2017. Metz won promotion again last season, and so the clubs will meet for the first time since January 2022, when a crowd limited due to the pandemic watched Strasbourg win 2-0 away at the Stade Saint-Symphorien. In fact Strasbourg have won the last three derby encounters having gone 11 meetings without a win prior to that.
Sunday’s match, which is on course to be watched by a sell-out crowd at the Stade Saint-Symphorien, brings together two sides who are separated by a single point in the Ligue 1 Uber Eats table after decent starts to the campaign.
At Metz, Les Grenats are unbeaten in four matches since suffering a 5-1 thumping away to Stade Rennais FC on the opening weekend. They followed that by holding Marseille 2-2 at home with 10 men and the scoreline was the same when they faced Stade de Reims in their last outing in front of their own fans. Meanwhile, last weekend they recorded a stunning 1-0 victory away to RC Lens with Swedish winger Joel Asoro scoring his first goal since signing from Djurgårdens IF last month.
Vieira at Versailles
“We grabbed a point against Marseille when we were down to 10 men and we have taken three points from a difficult game at Lens. These are the values we need to display to keep advancing at this level,” said Metz captain Matthieu Udol.
Meanwhile Strasbourg have been inconsistent, with their two wins so far both being immediately followed by a defeat. They have won at home against Olympique Lyonnais and Toulouse FC, and lost away at AS Monaco and OGC Nice, both times without scoring. Last weekend they recovered from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Montpellier Hérault SC at the Stade de la Meinau with Lebo Mothiba getting their equaliser.
“The positive side was the character and personality shown by the team. Games like these will only help our young players progress,” Strasbourg coach Patrick Vieira said after the Montpellier game.
Strasbourg battle back to draw with Montpellier
“I see the implication of my players every day and their hard work will pay off. When you look at the teams we have played so far, to have seven points already is a source of satisfaction. We are at the beginning of a new cycle and I knew it was going to be long and complicated. We need patience, we need to be humble and we need to keep working hard.”
Vieira attended a banquet at the Château de Versailles this week to celebrate the visit to France of King Charles III of Britain along with his former Arsenal manager – and Strasbourg native and former Racing player – Arsène Wenger. The coach is without Polish defender Karol Fila, who has suffered an ACL injury.
Metz, who posed for their official team photo in front of the city’s cathedral earlier this week, can welcome back Senegalese defender Aboubacar Lô after a three-match ban. Maxime Colin is out injured, while Benjamin Tetteh and Ismaël Traoré also missed last week’s game at Lens.
Metz: Oukidja; Kouao, Hérelle, Candé, Udol (c); N’Doram, Maïga; Asoro, Jallow, Sabaly; Elisor
Strasbourg: Sels (c); Guilbert, Perrin, Nyamsi, Delaine; Doukouré, Sissoko; Ângelo Gabriel, Sahi Dion, Diarra; Gameiro
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