EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) is looking to continue his hot European NAP streak with a selection from Sunday's Ligue 1 action.
Caen v Marseille | Sunday 20th January 2019, 16:00 | BT Sport
Regular readers of my European columns on WLB will know, I’m no fan of Caen. Having recommended backing SMC for relegation in my ante-post Ligue 1 piece, it’s frustrating to see the Normandy club continuing to hover just a stone’s throw above the relegation zone.
Last season Caen survived by the skin of their teeth having concluded their campaign with seven defeats from 10 winless games to finish a solitary point above the dreaded drop-zone. It was a wretched finale and instigated the idea that SMC would again struggle to stay afloat in France’s top-tier in 2018/19.
Head coach Patrice Garande departed in the off-season after six years and incoming boss Fabien Mercadal arrived with no previous top-flight experience; he was given the gig having led Paris FC in his previous role. The new boss had plenty of work to do with the squad losing a number of key elements.
Caen scored just 27 goals in 2017/18 – comfortably the lowest in the league – and top scorer Ivan Santini moved on for pastures new. Nobody else scored more than five goals in the group and centre-half star Damien Da Silva also headed to the exit, just two of five key starters to leave the club in the lurch.
The Normandy outfit brought in Enzo Crivelli and Casimir Ninga to spearhead their challenge but neither are prolific, nor consistent performers in Ligue 1. With problems mounting at the both ends, Caen were forecast to feature prominently in the battle to stay afloat and so it’s no surprise to see the side sitting in 16th and a sole point above the bottom-three.
French giants Marseille missed out on Champions League qualification last term by one point as their high number of stalemates cost them dear, as did Les Phoceens’ record against their top-six rivals. Despite their disappointment, Rudi Garcia’s group were expected to continue their upward curve and challenge for a top-three finish this season.
However, Les Olympiens come into this weekend’s clash housed in mid-table. Marseille are already 22 points adrift of league leaders PSG and nine away from second-placed Lille, and know a marked improvement is required if pre-season ambitions are to be realised at the Stade Velodrome.
L’OM have really struggled on the road this season (W3-D1-L6) but have continued their eye-catching attacking displays, and that impressive forwardline – coupled with their vulnerable defence – suggests another high-scoring encounter could be on the cards when they visit Caen on Sunday afternoon.
Goals on the agenda
Only two of Marseille’s 10 away days this term have featured fewer than three goals, with those matches averaging 3.60 goals per-game as five have produced Over 3.5 Goals profit. The visitors have only once kept their sheets clean on the road, whilst only twice failing to score – both arriving against high-flying Montpellier and Lille.
Caen were renowned for their defensive-first and dour football under their previous boss but to their credit, contests at the Stade Michel d'Ornano have tended to be enjoyable affairs under Mercadal. Six of their 10 outings as hosts have seen Over 2.5 Goals pay-out, including six of their seven tussles with teams above them in the standings.
The hosts have notched in all seven home meetings with teams above them in the Ligue 1 table and can play their part in what could be a watchable encounter. considering eight of their 12 encounters against clubs in 11th or above have seen Over 2.5 Goals collect, supporting another goal-heavy game appeals.
Caen have provided 7/10 (70%) Both Teams To Score winners at the Michel d'Ornano, with six featuring three or more goals. Meanwhile, Marseille have seen 8/10 (80%) away days produce Over 2.5 Goals with 7/10 (70%) seeing BTTS bank, giving both sides scoring the slight edge at 10/11 (William Hill) on Sunday.
Caen v Marseille – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)