European NAP – Flat-track bullies to flex their muscles in France

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MARK O’HAIRE’S (@MarkOHaire) European NAP heads to Ligue 1 on Sunday.

Troyes v Marseille | Sunday 15th March 2018, 16:00 | BT Sport

Marseille charged into the Europa League semi-finals for the first time in 14 years on a night of high drama and fervour at the Stade Velodrome on Thursday.

Needing two goals at least to qualify, OM fell behind after just 120 seconds against RB Leipzig. But the French giants roared back into contention, firing five goals past their German counterparts to seal a spot in the final-four.

Florian Thauvin was electric and Leipzig simply had no answer to his creative combination with Dimitri Payet in the hole behind Kostas Mitroglou. Despite missing Adil Rami and Rolando at the back – and Luis Gustavo continuing in a makeshift centre-back role – Rudi Garcia’s group were deserving winners.

Marseille focussed on a top-three finish

Supporters celebrated long into Thursday night but head coach Rudi Garcia and his group remain focussed on the job in-hand: Champions League qualification. And it’s been a frustrating time for Marseille fans of late having seen their five-point advantage over Lyon in the battle for a top-three finish eaten up.

A last-gasp home loss to Lyon before the international break was harsh on OM and although they bounced back to beat Dijon 3-1 on their travels, last weekend’s 0-0 draw when welcoming Montpellier has threatened to derail what’s largely been a positive Ligue 1 campaign.

However, Thauvin was missing through injury and Payet – a key contributor for Marseille in 2018 – endured an unusual quiet evening against dogged and dour opponents. The pressure is now most certainly on Marseille to produce and I’m backing the visitors to do just that on Sunday afternoon.

OM can bounce back

Exclude the top-four and the visitors boast a wonderful W17-D7-L1 league return – the solitary defeat came at fifth-placed Rennes. OM have W9-D4-L0 on their travels in that same sample, with six victories achieved by two goals or more as they netted at least twice on nine occasions.

The French Riviera outfit have claimed top honours in four of their previous six games as guests, whilst they’ve also racked up nine victories from 10 unbeaten encounters with the bottom-six sides this term.

What’s more, only four of their 18 triumphs have arrived by a 1-0 correct score and with Over 1.5 Goals banking in all bar two of their away-days, I’m happy to back Marseille to win and Over 1.5 Goals at 10/11 (BetStars).

Troyes sinking

The battle for survival at the bottom of Ligue 1 is no clearer with Metz, Lille, Troyes and Toulouse all losing last week. For ESTAC, a thumping 4-0 reverse at Guingamp is bound to have shaken confidence in the camp and a tough run-in could see Jean-Louis Garcia’s men entrenched in the bottom-three.

Starting the weekend occupying the relegation play-off position, Troyes’ recent results leave a lot to be desired. The newly-promoted outfit have now picked up just two points from a possible 21 on offer whilst also losing 16 of their last 23 Ligue 1 matches have ended in defeat.

ESTAC have relied upon their home performances to keep them afloat (W6-D3-L7) however, a W1-D1-L6 return when welcoming top-half teams suggests the hosts will be out-classed here. Troyes were silenced in six of those eight matches against the league’s elite, have and managed to score just once in their last six.

Best Bets

Troyes v Marseille – Marseille to win and Over 1.5 Goals (10/11 BetStars)

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After starting his career in newspaper journalism, Mark soon found his way into the online betting world, forging a career in content, social media and marketing production. With a huge passion for stats, the Football League and European football, Mark’s other interests include playing rugby, following his beloved QPR and travel.

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