MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his views on Wednesday evening’s Ligue 1 action from France.
Nice v Toulouse | Wednesday 18.00
Poor finishing, a slice of good fortune and a starring role from Caen goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre sent Nice packing with a 2-0 defeat on Sunday as they failed to move level on points with local rivals Monaco in the battle for second.
Claude Puel's men boasted 71% possession but an early goal and penalty just before the half-time whistle gave Caen the initiative. Despite the second-half pressure, Hatem Ben Arfa and Valere Germain fell short of their high standards and Les Aiglons left empty-handed.
They’ll fancy their chances of bouncing back into winning form on Wednesday, however. Nice have beaten Toulouse in four of their last six Ligue 1 meetings on the French Riviera and have recorded three successive league victories on home soil for the first time in two years.
The hosts have no fresh injury problems and have returned an impressive W6-D1-L2 when welcoming sides that aren’t Monaco or PSG to the Allianz Riviera this term, netting at least twice on five occasions.
Toulouse had endured a tough schedule in 2016 and five defeats on the bounce have hit their confidence hard, especially the manner of Saturday’s home loss in the six-pointer against Guingamp – Wissam Ben Yedder’s last-minute penalty miss denying Dominique Arribage’s men a point.
In truth, TFC were poor before falling behind and having failed to fresh their squad before the transfer window closed, look up against it in the battle for survival. This midweek they’ll be without suspended defender Issa Diop as they bid to close the six-point gap between them and survival.
Ben Yedder and Martin Braithwaite are capable forwards but the club seem incapable of turning their rotten road form around. Since the start of last season, Toulouse have lost 22/31 (71%) of their away matches, keeping only four clean sheets.
The guests have lost each of their last eight at top-six teams and I’ll happily add Nice to that list. However, I’ll chuck in Over 1.5 Goals to the equation too, boosting the odds from evens to 13/8 with Paddy Power.
Puel’s men have seen at least three goals scored in nine of their last 12 as hosts whilst Toulouse’s away days have featured a minimum of two goals in 25/31 (81%) across that sample since the beginning of 2014/15.
Reims v Angers | Wednesday 18.00
Reims are in a real rut. Winless at home since September (W0-D4-L4) – their worst run of form in three years, they’ve yet to record a victory in 2016 and have slid into Ligue 1’s bottom-three.
Oliver Guegan’s charges were out-classed, out-fought and out-thought in their flattering 2-0 reverse to Lorient last time out. Failing to even score against a side that had shutout just two sides since September and leaked at least twice in five of their previous six is alarming.
The club made several investments in the transfer window in a last throw of the dice for survival – goalkeeper Johan Carrasso, Abdelhamid El Kaoutari and Lass Bangoura were all recruited – but I’ll need convincing they’re over the worst of it.
Only Toulouse and Troyes have conceded more goals and Reims have also seen their woodwork struck 12 times this term – more than any other divisional rival. It’s bleak.
Three consecutive defeats called Angers’ remarkable campaign into question but Stéphane Moulin’s men silenced their critics with a large-and-in-charge 3-0 thumping of Monaco on Saturday night. Dominating midfielder Cheikh Ndoye took his tally to seven goals and fellow midfielder Thomas Mangani returned from injury.
The visitors are masters in the art of the counter-attack and also superbly effective from set-pieces – 13 of Angers’ goals have come from set-plays so it’s an area they’ll look to target, especially considering Reims were punished twice by Lorient over the weekend from dead-ball situations.
But arguably most impressive has seen their wondrously tight, compact and highly-organised defence. Moulin’s men have kept 13 clean sheets in 23 games since promotion and have allowed an average of just 3.00 shots-on-target per-game – a figure only bettered by PSG.
The guests are underrated here and I’ll back them off a +0.25 Asian Handicap start at 7/8 with Bet365, where we’ll make money should Angers avoid defeat for the 18th match in 24.
With this selection, our stake is essentially evenly split between the Draw No Bet market and Double Chance market. This means that should Angers win, both parts of our selection will provide profit. But if the match ends in a draw, half our stake is returned with the second half deemed a winner.
The only way in which we’ll lose our money is if Reims end that sorry winless streak at home and you might like to know, the hosts have managed just W1-D10-L10 in their last 21 showdowns with promoted clubs. Yikes.
PSG v Lorient | Wednesday 20.00 | BT Sport 2
PSG’s 63 points from their first 23 Ligue 1 games of the season is a new French record. PSG’s 32-match unbeaten streak (W29-D3-L0) in Ligue 1 has also now equalled a French record set in 1995 by Nantes. And the tally of 10 goals conceded at this stage of a season has also levelled a previous record set by Bordeaux in 1990.
Clearly, Laurent Blanc’s men are strolling towards another title and with 13 wins on the spin, W25-D5-L0 from their last 30 league games in the capital, W-W double results in 18/20 Parc des Princes outings and victories by two or more goals in 14 of their last 17 in front of their home fans, it would take a brave punter to oppose them.
Only complacency and misfortune are likely to cost PSG points now but it’s true too they were put under a decent amount of pressure at St Etienne on Sunday night. And although they came away with a 2-0 triumph, their hosts enjoyed a fair share of chances and opportunities.
Both David Luiz and Thiago Silva are out injured so Bland had to improvise by fielding 20-year-old Presnel Kimpembe alongside Marquinhos in the heart of Les Rouge-et-Bleu’s backline and the youngster looked a little hesitant.
Neither Luiz, Silva nor Gregory Van der Wiel are expected back on Wednesday. Silva, Luiz, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Salvatore Sirigu and Layvin Kurzawa all returned to training on Monday but with Le Classique on the horizon, it would be a surprise if Blanc threw any of his players into the mix straight away.
So although PSG have recorded clean sheets in six of their last eight Ligue 1 encounters, I do think there’s an angle to attack.
Lorient have won just twice in 12 on their travels (W2-D6-L4) and failed to shutout any opponent in 10 on the road. Indeed, 10 losses in 12 at top-six teams and one of the worst defences in the division suggests they’ll walk away from Paris with their tails between their legs. And they will…
But Sylvain Ripoll’s eased their relegation fears with an impressive 2-0 walkover of Reims at the weekend in a match that saw both their feared forwards return from injury. Benjamin Moukandjo and Majeed Waris have scored 15 of Lorient’s 32 goals this term and alongside in-form winger Yann Jouffre, could easily get on the scoresheet here.
PSG have played at the Parc des Princes on five occasions in 2016 already and conceded goals in three of those fixtures. They’ve taken 90 out of a possible 96 available points, scored at least twice in their last 18 with 15 of their previous 20 at home featuring four or more goals.
But why not take a gamble on a home win with both teams scoring at a bulbous 23/10 with Coral. It’s had a 50% success rate in PSG’s 10 Ligue 1 matches this term with only four league sides failing to notch in the capital.
If you’re looking for something a little less daunting, back PSG to win and Over 3.5 Goals at 7/5 with Paddy Power. As well as the overwhelming aforementioned stats, a huge 14/27 (52%) of Lorient’s away matches and six of their nine trips to top-six sides have featured at least four goals (eight banking in the Over 2.5 Goals column).
Nice v Toulouse – Nice to win and Over 1.5 Goals (13/8 Paddy Power)
Reims v Angers – Angers +0.25 Asian Handicap (7/8 Bet365)
PSG v Lorient – PSG to win and Both Teams To Score (23/10 Coral)
PSG v Lorient – PSG to win and Over 3.5 Goals (7/5 Paddy Power)
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