MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) continues his hunt for the continent's best bet with his European NAP focussing on Sunday's Ligue 1 action.
Nice v Lorient | Sunday 16.00 | BT Sport ESPN
Ligue 1 leaders Nice have found transferring their domestic form onto the European stage a little tricky thus far, losing both of their Europa League encounters by an aggregate 2-6.
But don’t let that put you off Les Aiglons this Sunday evening with Coral chalking the table-toppers up at an attractive 20/23 to see off Lorient on the French Riviera.
Lucian Favre’s juggled his squad over the past week and last weekend’s 1-0 victory at Nancy saw Nice maintain their one point advantage over rivals Monaco at the peak of the Ligue 1 standings despite resting and rotating his troops.
Mario Balotelli was left out of last weekend’s triumph and the Italian scored his fifth goal for the Cote d'Azur outfit on Thursday night before being substituted at half-time due to a virus in Nice’s 5-2 loss at Krasnodar. Balo is now rated doubtful for this date, as well as Mathieu Bodmer.
However, Les Aiglons can recall Alassane Plea in attack at the Allianz Riviera on Sunday and their rock-solid home record should stand the league leaders in good stead. Nice have W7-D2-L0 when including the back end of 2015/16, whilst winning 12 of their last 15 as hosts.
Since the start of last season, the south-coasters have W15-D3-L5 when welcoming league opposition and bagged five victories in six when hosting bottom-six opposition.
Lucien Favre’s men shipped more goals against Krasnodar in midweek (5) than they did in their first seven league matches (4) and I’d expect a much stronger defensive display on Sunday. Nice have shutout 10 (44%) of their last 23 Ligue 1 visitors and should prove too strong for terrible travellers Lorient.
Les Merlus climbed out of the bottom-three with two triumphs in three – including a 1-0 success at home to Lyon last time out – but their W2-D0-L5 looks poor when viewing their away record (W0-D0-L3).
Guingamp, Marseille and Caen have all dispatched Sylvain Ripoll’s side this season, scoring six goals between them, and looking at Lorient’s road record since the start of 2015/16, we can see the guests have been beaten on 12/22 (55%) occasions.
Les Merlus have notched just four goals this term, failing to find the back of the net in four of their seven away days and will once again be without key trio Lindsay Rose, Sylvain Marveaux and Wesley Lautoa this weekend.
Interestingly, the visitors lost four of their six trips to top-six sides last term, failing to score in half these games and conceding at least twice in five. And further back, Lorient have returned home pointless in seven of eight games at top-six hosts, losing by at least two goals in five encounters.
Nice v Lorient – Nice to win (20/23 Coral)