EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) heads to Ligue 1 on Sunday for his latest best bet on the continent.
Lille v Nimes | Sunday 6th October 2019, 14:00 | BT Sport
Goals reigned supreme in Germany last weekend as the European NAP returned to winning form. I'm heading closer to home on Sunday, crossing the English Channel and taking the A25 to the pretty French city of Lille as last season's Ligue 1 runners-up welcome Nimes to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
Despite losing a clutch of star names in the summer, Les Dogues have replenished key components of their squad efficiently and effectively, with master recruitment specialist Luis Campos playing another blinder in the transfer market. The capture of 20-year-old striker Victor Osimhen from Charleroi has already earned rave reviews across the continent.
The Nigerian hitman has notched six goals in eight Ligue 1 appearances, as well as grabbing Lille’s goal in their midweek meeting with Chelsea. The Flanders outfit fell to a 2-1 reverse in that Champions League contest on Wednesday, although there was still plenty to like about Christian Galtier’s charges, who’ve made the Pierre-Mauroy a fortress in French football.
Since the beginning of 2018/19, Lille have racked up a remarkable 17 triumphs from 23 league outings in front of their home supporters, scoring at least twice on 15 (65%) occasions, recording 12 (52%) clean sheets, and winning by a margin of two goals or more 10 (43% times. Les Dogues have even triumphed by at least three goals in 7/23 (30%) here.
Thus far this season, LOSC have registered four victories from four as hosts, scoring twice or more in all four fixtures. So it makes sense to keep Galtier’s group onside again when they welcome a Nimes team that are still finding their feet after a tumultuous summer.
Nimes were terrific last term after sealing promotion to the top-flight, playing an exciting brand of attacking football. The Crocodiles consolidated in mid-table despite boasting the division’s smallest budget, although their eye-catching exploits led to a series of high-profile players being pilfered by larger league rivals.
Jordan Ferri, Sada Thioub, Baptiste Guillaume, Umut Bozok, Denis Bouanga, Téji Savanier and Rachid Alioui moved away, robbing head coach Bernard Blaquart of seven of Nimes’ top nine Expected Goals (xG) contributors in 2018/19. The minnows have worked hard to plug gaps but it’s not too surprising to see the Crocodiles struggle for consistency since.
The visitors have been beaten in four of their opening eight encounters, firing blanks in half of those outings. Blaquart’s boys have been beaten in 12/22 (52%) games as guests at this level, and their return against Ligue 1’s top half also comes under scrutiny with Nimes losing 15 of 21 tussles against top-10 outfits, including 10 of 11 when taking to the road.
There’s a lot to like about Nimes, in particular the footballing philosophy imposed by Blaquart, however, the visitors look likely to fall short when tackling the league’s elite and Lille should be capable of justifying appealing 4/6 (Ladbrokes) quotes. But I’ll chuck in Under 4.5 Goals for an even-money (Coral) chance – only 13 of their duos 92 Ligue 1 matches since the start of last term have featured Over 4.5 Goals.
Lille v Nimes – Lille to win and Under 4.5 Goals (1/1 Coral)