THE first full card of Ligue 1 action from France is upon us and we asked European football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) to deliver his verdict on the best bets.
Ligue 1 is back on the menu after a fortnight’s break for the festive period and what an exciting finale we should have in store. With PSG back in third place and just five points separating the top-four sides, the title race promises to go right to the wire.
Reims v St Etienne | Saturday 19.00
One of those aforementioned top-four sides is St Etienne and the Greens make the journey to Reims on Saturday night hoping for a positive result.
Having suffered only three defeats all season and none since the 5th October, there’s plenty to encourage Christophe Galtier’s charges. However, it’s the goals market that stands out and backing ‘No’ in the Both Teams To Score column at 3/4 with BetVictor.
St Etienne have been the opposite of goal-friendly in 2014/15 with only five of their 19 games producing goals for both sides. The Greens went into the winter break on the back of a six-match run of consecutive clean sheets in top-flight football and conceding just twice in their last 10, without suffering defeat (W6-D4).
A repeat could well be on the cards this weekend. Galter’s team boast a very positive record against Reims. They’re unbeaten in 11 (W5-D6) against the former French giants and have even kept clean sheets in seven of the last 10 Ligue 1 meetings between the two teams.
But the hosts are in decent shape themselves and rather than enter a market predicting the outcome of the match, I’d rather focus on what’s likely to be a tight encounter between two capable sides on Saturday night.
It should also be noted that midfielder Prince Oniangue is one of several first choice Reims players absent as a result of the African Cup of Nations and since the start of last season they’ve averaged just 0.85 goals-per-game in the 13 matches he’s missed.
Evian v Rennes | Saturday 19.00
Finding potential winners from the Matchday 20 card looks a tough equation to solve but Rennes could be the answer we’re looking for. The Normandy-based outfit can be backed at 10/11 (Betfair) in the Draw No Bet market. With this selection we’ll get our stake back should their visit to Evian end in a draw and be onto a winner if they come away with maximum points.
The Red & Blacks completed their 2014 with three consecutive defeats but can call upon a very impressive record when taking on bottom-half teams this campaign. Philippe Montanier’s men have W7-D1-L2 of those 10 matches and have had the upper hand in six of the last nine head-to-heads with Evian.
Struggling Evian have already suffered 12 league defeats this season, hold the most porous defensive record in the top tier and possess a disastrous record against Ligue 1’s elite. L’ETG have D1-L9 in their 10 games against top-half teams.
Pascal Dupraz’s hosts are also averaging the lowest shots-on-target record in the league (barely 2 per-game) and to make matters worse, are without centre-backs Jonathan Mensah and Cédric Mongongu who are both away on international duty. With Rennes suffering just one loss in five on the road, I expect them to get something here.
Lyon v Toulouse | Sunday 13.00
Cast your mind back to early August and you may recall Lyon were ina bit of a mess. Three successive defeats in the league and Europa League saw Les Gones exit European competition and struggling to keep pace with Ligue 1’s leading lights.
Fast forward to January 2015 and Hubert Fournier’s team are sandwiches between Marseille and PSG and just two points off the summit. It’s been a fabulous transformation. Injuries were a big part to blame for their out-of-sorts early season form but the side ended 2014 with a swagger and following their Coupe de France win at Lens, have come out on top in 10 of their last 13 outings.
On Sunday they return to fortress Stade de Gerland. When playing in front of their home supporters, Lyon have W9-L1 and that includes eight successive home victories in Ligue 1 football. Unsurprisingly, it’s the best in the division.
So I’m going to back Les Gones to win in the Asian Handicap market. You can take the hosts -1 at 42/41 with BetVictor meaning, we’ll get our stake back if Fournier’s men only manage a one-goal win. Anything bigger and we’ll have a winner. Lyon have already managed to win by 2+ goals in 6/10 games at the Gerland in league action this season.
Toulouse can be a tricky team to second guess but recent form suggests they could be in for a tough afternoon. With seven defeats from 10 road fixtures and seven losses from 10 league matches have seen them slide down the table and more woe could be on the way this weekend.