Pedretti voices Auxerre relegation fears
© AFP

Auxerre captain Benoit Pedretti admits that his team are staring relegation in the face, despite a season that began with games against AC Milan and Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.

The club stunned the French football establishment last season by finishing third, after a late surge founded on counter-attacking and defensive solidity saw them pip current league leaders Lille to the final Champions League berth.

Their reward was a glamorous draw that pitted them against Milan, Real and Ajax -- who have 20 European Cup titles between them -- but Auxerre finished bottom of their group, failing to qualify for the UEFA Europa League.

Things have gone from bad to worse ever since. Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Bordeaux extended their winless run to 17 games in all competitions and left them in 17th place in Ligue 1, a point above the relegation zone.

We have to wake up and rediscover a warrior's mentality. We are conceding too many early goals and too many goals from set-pieces.
Benoit Pedretti, Auxerre captain.

With only 13 league games remaining, including forthcoming fixtures against title contenders Paris Saint-Germain on 5 March and Rennes on 2 April 2, Pedretti says they must shake off their torpor.

"The club is in danger," he said. "A lot of people think we will go down. We have to wake up and rediscover a warrior's mentality. We are conceding too many early goals and too many goals from set-pieces.

"We came back from the winter break in a bad place mentally. We thought things would right themselves automatically and didn't work hard enough. We've had injury problems and the next three games are going to be hard for us."

Having rubbed shoulders with the hoi polloi of European football this season, Pedretti says he and his team-mates are too familiar with France's second tier to want to return there.

"(Olivier) Sorin, (Cedric) Hengbart and myself have all played in Ligue 2," said Pedretti, who secured promotion from the second division with Sochaux in 2001.(Adama) Coulibaly was relegated with Lens and (Anthony) Le Tallec with Le Mans last season. Believe me, nobody wants to go through that again and nobody wants to play Ligue 2 football."

Auxerre host fourth-place PSG next Saturday and in the aftermath of the loss to Bordeaux, coach Jean Fernandez issued a call for unity.

"The worrying thing isn't just tonight (Saturday) but what has been going on since the season re-started," he said. "Things have been worrying for Auxerre since the start of January. In this kind of situation, you can't surrender. We still have a chance. We're fighting with three other teams, and we're going to have to stick together."