A first ever meeting of Belgium's Gent and France's Saint-Étienne gets the teams' UEFA Europa League Group I campaigns under way.
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A first ever meeting of Belgium's Gent and France's Saint-Étienne gets the teams' UEFA Europa League Group I campaign under way, with the hosts fresh from three successful summer qualifying ties and their visitors making their first European outing of the season.
• Gent's five previous home games against French opponents have all ended in draws, most recently 0-0 against Bordeaux in the first leg of last season's UEFA Europa League play-off; they bowed out after a 2-0 second-leg defeat in south-west France.
• St-Étienne are unbeaten in three matches against Belgian sides, their last cross-border visit having brought a 3-2 win at Anderlecht on matchday six of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League – Les Verts' most recent European campaign.
• Fifth in the 2018/19 Belgian top flight, and also runners-up in the domestic cup, Gent qualified for Europe for the fifth successive season, extending the longest sequence in the club's history.
• Ousted in the qualifying phase of the UEFA Europa League in each of the past two seasons, they have come through three ties to reach the group stage this term, defeating Romania's Viitorul (6-3 h, 1-2 a), AEK Larnaca of Cyprus (1-1 a, 3-0 h) and, in the play-offs, Croatian club Rijeka (2-1 h, 1-1 a). Their two previous participations at this juncture of the competition had different outcomes, with elimination in 2010/11 and progress through to the round of 16 in 2016/17.
• Gent are undefeated in their last eight European home games against foreign opposition (W5 D3). The last European fixture they lost on home soil was against another Belgian club, Genk, in the 2016/17 round of 16 (2-5).
• Absent from Europe since they reached the UEFA Europa League round of 32 in 2016/17, St-Étienne made it back by finishing fourth in Ligue 1 last term to secure a fourth group stage appearance in this competition.
• Unable to get out of their group in 2014/15, when they drew their first five matches before losing the last, they were successful in both 2015/16 and 2016/17 before exiting both times at the round of 32 stage, latterly to eventual winners Manchester United (0-3 a, 0-1 h).
• Les Verts have a positive away record in the UEFA Europa League group stage of W3 D4 L2, with no defeats in the last five matches (W3 D2).
Links and trivia
• Gent midfielder Sven Kums is a former team-mate of St-Étienne's Gabriel Silva (Udinese 2016/17) and Robert Berič (Anderlecht 2017/18).
• Gent's Dylan Bronn and St-Étienne's Wahbi Khazri are fellow Tunisian internationals who were both squad members at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and this year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Khazri scored a late consolation goal against Belgium in a 5-2 defeat at the World Cup in Russia.
• A tall striker who spent most of his playing career in his native Denmark with OB and Esbjerg but also had short spells in Germany, Austria and Norway, Jess Thorup has lately become one of his country's most upwardly mobile coaches. After a two-year stint in charge of the Danish Under-21 side he became Midtjylland's head coach in 2015 and steered the Jutland club to the Superliga title in 2017/18. That prompted interest from abroad and he was recruited in October 2018 by Gent, whom he guided to a runners-up spot in the Belgian Cup and a fifth-placed finish in the league in his first season.
• Ghislain Printant stepped up from his position as Jean-Louis Gasset's assistant to become Saint-Étienne’s head coach in June 2019 – a month after his 58th birthday. Only once previously had he taken charge of a Ligue 1 club, at Corsican side Bastia from November 2014 to January 2016, leading the team to the final of the French League Cup. A goalkeeper at amateur level, he was also Gasset's No2 for a short spell at Montpellier in 2017 before the pair moved to St-Étienne.