THREE French fancies that have caught Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) eye this weekend? Of course.
Lyon v Reims | Saturday 15.00
Lyon are not in a good place right now. The thrills and spills of their bright young side taking Ligue 1 by storm last season have long gone and after a turbulent summer, the bad blood and ill feeling between players and the hierarchy at the club has spilled over.
In midweek, star striker Alexandre Lacazette criticised the club’s chairman and manager over the way they handled his contract talks over the summer. His poor form in front of goal has contributed to their run of just one win in six but arguably more damaging is the long-term injury to Nabil Fekir.
Les Gones are already without Clément Grenier, Gueida Fofana, Henri Bedimo, Bakary Koné, Rafael and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and their 12-point return from eight fixtures just isn’t cutting the mustard. Fans are unhappy, players are whinging, management are moaning. And saying that, Lyon actually played pretty well when losing 1-0 at home to Valencia in midweek.
Hubert Fournier will persist with his tried-and-trusted 4-4-2 diamond formation but a repeat of last week’s awful showing against Bordeaux just won’t be accepted by the home faithful. The hosts have won 13 of their last 20 Stade Gerland dates with Ligue 1 opposition, 10 of which came by two goals or more. But there’s no way we can trust them to deliver in the current climate.
Reims ended their run of three consecutive draws by edging out Lille 1-0 last time out and Olivier Guegan’s men are now unbeaten in five having tasted defeat just once this term. They’ve already beaten Marseille and held PSG at home and are more than comfortable on the road under their bright young boss.
Guegan’s won seven of his 15 fixtures in charge of SDR so trends such as W5-D7-L17 away can be ignored. Their short term form is W6-D3-L2, their 15-points tally after eight games is their best return since 1974, they’ve kept back-to-back clean sheets and can name an unchanged XI too.
There’s plenty going in the Champagne club’s favour and I fancy their chances of avoiding defeat. The visitors are organised, difficult to beat but also have enough pace and physicality in forward areas to ruffle a few feathers.
We can back Reims +1 on the Asian Handicap line at 5/6 with BetVictor and should the away side lose by a solitary goal, we’ll get our cash back. An away win or draw equals a winner.
Nice v Nantes | Saturday 19.00
Regular readers of the Ligue 1 column (hello to all four of you) will know how profitable Nice have been when it comes to Both Teams To Score punts this year and I’m almost prepared to back it blindly when seeing William Hill chalk up a repeat at 23/20. Odds-against? Yes please.
The Eagles have scored 20 goals in their first eight fixtures – their best return since 1975. Claude Puel’s troops have won three on the spin, scoring at least three goals in each. The hosts boast the most prolific attack in the league, stunned St Etienne 4-1 last weekend and have Hatem Ben Arfa in the form of his life – not since 2008/09 has he netted six goals or more at this stage.
But it’s not all positive at the Allianz Riviera. Nampalys Mendy and Maxime Le Marchand were red carded in that St Etienne success and without Mendy, their defensive shield, you do wonder if they’ll have a chance to end a barren run of 14 top tier games without a clean sheet. Mendy’s only missed five matches since the start of 2013/14 and Nice have conceded 12 goals – double their rate with him in the team.
The Eagles have had defensive selection issues all season long so whilst Nantes have failed to find the net in 10 of their previous 14 on the road, they probably won’t have a better chance to enhance that record. The Canaries’ midweek win at Lille has boosted confidence in the ranks but Lorik Cana’s absence is a huge blow.
For Nice, Alassane Pléa remains sidelined but with Ben Arfa and Valère Germain still available to lead the offence, I’d rather stick to the hosts’ outstanding goal trends than invest my faith in Nantes’ lack of them. Nice have seen Over 2.5 Goals collect in nine of their last 11 as well as 16 of their previous 20, are 10 without shutting any visitor to the Allianz Riviera out with Both Teams To Score bets winning in 28/46 (61%) of fixtures since the start of last season.
Taking solely their home form into account, Nice have been involved with 15/23 (65%) BTTS winners. As I say, can we afford to ignore it at odds-against? Take the 23/20 with William Hill.
PSG v Marseille | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 2
It’s fair to say, the destination of the Ligue 1 title is probably already sewn up. PSG are four points clear after eight games and although the capital club will have their eyes firmly set on a solid run in the Champions League, the strength in depth of the Parisians makes a challenge for top French honours tough from rival clubs.
Last weekend Les Rouge-et-Bleu tore Nantes apart in their own back yard to run out 4-1 winners before dismantling Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in Ukraine. The side are confident and playing with a swagger you associate with an all-conquering sides. That’s no mean position to be in ahead of this weekend’s Le Classique.
The most famous game in the French calendar pits Laurent Blanc’s PSG with bitter rivals Marseille. The last four encounters at the Parc des Princes have ended in 2-0 victories for the hosts and the previous nine head-to-heads anywhere have resulted in W8-D1-L0 in the capital club’s favour. PSG scored at least twice in each of those nine.
Want more? The Parisians 20-point tally after eight games is their best return since 1996, they’ve W15-D2-L0 of their previous 17 Ligue 1 matches and scored in their last 19 outings. Angel Di Maria’s settled in brilliantly, playing a part in five goals in his first five appearances whilst Blanc has W5-D4-L1 of 10 managerial meetings with his old club.
Les Rouge-et-Bleu look primed to hand out more pain to Marseille. Under Blanc’s tutelage, PSG have W32-D8-L1 of their 41 Ligue 1 games as hosts and in 27/41 (66%) of those outings they’ve beaten the one-goal handicap. We should be able to count on the defending champions enhancing that record on Sunday night. The -1.5 Asian Handicap is as big as 6/5 with 888 and I’ll be on it – we get paid out should PSG win by two or more goals.
A recent home defeat to Angers has already put new Marseille head coach Michel on the back foot and their one-point return from nine on the road is simply unacceptable. The visitors are languishing in the bottom-half and managed just W4-D4-L9 in their last 17 Ligue 1 away days, losing seven of their previous nine at top-six opposition.
L’OM have collected only eight points from eight games – their lowest total since 2011 and were defeated at Slovan Liberec on Thursday night. Already tailing their bitter rivals by 12 points, morale is low in Les Phocéens camp and it’s likely to get uglier on Sunday night.
Lyon v Reims – Reims +1 Asian Handicap (5/6 BetVictor)
Nice v Nantes – Both Teams To Score (23/20 William Hill)
PSG v Marseille – PSG -1.5 Asian Handicap (6/5 888)
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