The pivotal third round of the European Champions Cup takes place this weekend with former winners, pretenders and potential outsiders all poised to take a step towards the final in Newcastle next May.
On Sunday, two-time runners-up Racing 92 welcome double champions Leicester Tigers. The wealthy French club, currently fifth in the Top 14, are unbeaten having seen off Ulster and the Scarlets in October.
Racing’s Ireland winger Simon Zebo says a victory for his side would give them an advantage ahead of the return fixture on December 16.
“If we hopefully win this game, being three out of three is a very good position, going on to a fixture where Leicester will be struggling,” he told AFP.
Despite their history and pedigree, the Tigers have struggled in recent weeks. They are currently eighth in the Premiership and their October victory over the Scarlets in the Champions Cup marks their sole win in five outings.
Zebo who has scored seven tries in 11 games this campaign for the Parisians is expecting a reaction from the team with the third-best attack in the competition this year. An eighth touchdown this weekend for the 28-year old would bring his tally in Europe to 25.
“We’ve got good momentum in Europe but Leicester are dangerous if they click. They haven’t been great so far in the (English) league. They’re a bit of a wounded animal at the moment,” he added.
Zebo’s former side Munster are also top of their pool and face French champions Castres at Thomond Park – the two teams have met more often in the competition than anybody else.
Coach John van Graan is set to welcome back Ireland internationals CJ Stander and Joey Carberry who were rested for last weekend’s 44-14 thumping of Edinburgh which stretched the province’s unbeaten run to six matches.
The visitors have had a mixed start to the French and continental season. They have yet to record three consecutive wins and are coming off an embarrassing loss to strugglers Agen in the Top 14.
European Champions Cup pools and fixtures this weekend (all times GMT):
Scarlets v Ulster (19:45)
Edinburgh v Newcastle (19:45)
Bath v Leinster (15:15), Wasps v Toulouse (17:30)
Exeter v Gloucester (13:00)
Lyon v Glasgow Warriors (13:00)
Toulon v Montpellier (15:15)
Munster v Castres (13:00)
Saracens v Cardiff (13:00)
Racing 92 v Leicester (15:15)
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits by Michael Corry)