Blas and Nantes chasing French Cup glory amid struggles

Thu, Apr 27, 2023
Soccer News (AP)

Blas and Nantes chasing French Cup glory amid struggles

There have been only a few highlights for Nantes this season, and Ludovic Blas is no stranger to those happy moments.

Just three weeks ago, it was the prolific midfielder's superb strike against Lyon that sent his team to a second straight French Cup final, a year after Blas' penalty kick gave Nantes its first trophy in 21 years.

Blas and his teammates are returning to the Stade de France on Saturday to take on Toulouse in another French Cup final.

"To lift the trophy a second time in a row, that's what I wish for everyone. And it can give us extra strength to finish the championship well and stay in the top division," Blas said. "Considering our situation, it will be 50-50."

For Nantes, a historic powerhouse in French soccer, the match is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise season of struggles. With six matches left to play in the league, the eight-time French champions are above the relegation only on goal difference after failing to win their last nine matches.

"We have to change, and look for positive things on Saturday, look for a win to give us more confidence," Nantes striker Andy Delort said.

While Delort has been struggling since he joined during the winter transfer window, Blas' metronomic regularity in midfield and eye for goal have been giving fans something to cheer about.

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In addition to his assists and decisive goals in the cup competition, Blas has been scoring a lot in the league. He found the net 10 times in each of the previous two campaigns and has bagged seven league goals this season. According to French league statistics, Blas has scored more goals than any other midfielder since joining Nantes in 2019.

With 229 French league matches under his belt, Blas is no longer just a prospect. His performances have caught the attention of rival teams, but his expected transfer to Lille did not happen last year. The 25-year-old midfielder who started his career in Guingamp is now widely expected to leave this summer.

A departure from the French league could help Blas reach another level after being tipped as a future star in his youth when he won the the U19 European Championship in 2016 in a team that included Kylian Mbappe.

But the left-footed Blas has never played for France's senior national team, something he hopes to achieve soon.

"It's a goal. I'll work and we'll see what happens," Blas recently told the Telefoot program on French TV. "To reconnect with Kylian (Mbappe), Randal (Kolo Muani), the little 'Cus' (Marcus Thuram), Theo (Hernandez) ... All the people I played with. When you win a European Championship, it's strong."

Nantes will be aiming to win the competition for the fifth time, and to defend the title for the second time after triumphing in 1999 and 2000. Toulouse will be playing in its first final since lifting the trophy in 1957.

League matches are also taking place this weekend, with leader Paris Saint-Germain hosting Lorient on Sunday. PSG has an eight-point lead over second-place Marseille, which plays Auxerre at the Velodrome.

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