Sarries can take the Metro
Top-seeded Racing were the only side to make it through the pool stages undefeated and welcome last year’s beaten finalists Saracens, with the English side looking to qualify for a third consecutive semi-final.
While Racing will start as marginal favourites against the team who finished with the lowest points tally (17) of the eight quarter-finalists, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
For starters, Saracens qualified from a fiendishly difficult group – which featured three of last season’s four semi finalists – while their domestic form has been excellent.
Mark McCall’s men sit second in the Premiership, having won their last five games in a row and warmed up for the trip to France by beating Harlequins 42-14 in front of a world record club rugby crowd of 84,068 at Wembley Stadium last weekend.
Racing come into the first European knock-out game in their history on the back of an away win at Bayonne and currently lie fourth in the Top 14. However, they signaled their intent to establish themselves among Europe’s elite with a six-try thrashing of Northampton in their final pool game.
The Parisians have spared no expense in getting here, with the coaching ticket of Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit able to call on some excellent imported backline talent to augment a ferocious and predominantly French forward unit.
With plenty of grunt factor up front, they won’t be afraid to mix it up either; with Johnny Sexton calling the shots at out-half and the likes of Jamie Roberts and Juan Imhoff ready to be unleashed from behind the scrum.
Of course Saracens, too, enjoy a successful blend of forward heft and tremendous finishing power out wide, with discarded England winger Chris Ashton continuing to cross the whitewash with remarkable regularity. In his three seasons with Saracens, Ashton has now scored 19 in 23 games in the top tier of European competition.
Saracens have won just two of their last eight away games in France, however both those victories came against Racing, in 2010 and 2013. Racing have lost four of their last five home games against English opposition, with the exception being victory over Northampton this season.
Sarries upset the odds at the same stage away to Ulster last season and went on to enjoy a crushing defeat of fancied French opponents Clermont in the last four. In addition, they have won three of their four previous quarter-finals – and that experience could count for much against a Metro team making just their first appearance in the knock-out stages. As such, the 17/10 about Saracens could represent value in the two-way market.
The match kicks off at 1.45pm on Sunday, April 5th at Stade Yves-Du-Maoir