MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over this weekend’s best bets in Ligue 1.
Angers v Bordeaux | Sunday 16.00
Nobody expected such a fabulous first-half of the season from newly-promoted Angers. Stephane Moulin’s men have been far from spectacular but their mightily efficient defensive displays have laid the bedrock to a campaign that’s seen Le SCO consolidate their place in second.
After their notable goalless draw against PSG, Angers managed to ruin Lyon’s last ever game at the Stade Gerland, running out as impressive 2-0 winners courtesy of midfielder Cheikh Ndoye's brace last time out. Lyon, like most of Angers’ opponents, bossed possession and pushed hard but were unable to find a breakthrough before being hit on the break.
Goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle has now kept four consecutive clean sheets and now the hosts have the chance to keep five on the spin for the first time in their Ligue 1 history. With 11 shutouts from 17 top-flight fixtures already this season, they stand a strong chance of doing so against a weakened Bordeaux side.
Willy Sagnol’s side make the journey to Stade Jean Bouin without a win in 12 away league matches (W0-D6-L6), failing to keep their sheets clean in six. Les Girondins also arrive with a number of defensive players absent with centre-backs Nicolas Pallois, Lamine Sane and Pablo all unavailable. Frederic Guilbert may therefore partner Cedric Yamberé in the heart of a makeshift backline again.
As already mentioned, Les Girondins did extend their distance away from the bottom-three with a convincing 1-0 win over Guingamp last weekend but supporters remain upset with their 2015/16 exploits. Bordeaux were knockout out of the Europa League in midweek and their adventurous approach is unlikely to pay dividends against such streetwise opposition.
Angers have shutout seven of their nine visitors since promotion with all nine matches featuring fewer than three goals – six failed to even breach the one-goal barrier – with the hosts netting 12 of their 16 goals after the interval.
Home boss Stephane Moulin may need to alter his favoured starting XI after seeing Thomas Mangani and Abdoul Camara pick up injuries last time out. But Billy Ketkeophomphone should make a swift return and Angers just look overpriced at 4/5 (Coral) in the Draw No Bet market here. I don’t see them losing.
Marseille v GFC Ajaccio | Sunday 16.00 | BT Sport/ESPN
Promoted Gazelec have been a revelation of late and their current hot streak includes a trio of away wins at Reims, Bastia and Montpellier. Thierry Laurey's men now head to the Stade Velodrome for the first time since 1981 looking to upset the odds again.
GFC are unbeaten in seven Ligue 1 outings now (W5-D2-L0) – the second best streak behind PSG – having picked up a well-deserved point against Nantes (1-1) last time out. Considering their small squad, the energy-levels and determination Les Gaziers are displaying deserves special praise.
The visitors are still without Jules Goda, Alassane Touré and Pablo Martinez but goalkeeper Clément Maury is back in contention. And although Gregory Pujol is still struggling to be fit, Jacques Zoua and Khalid Boutaïb have successfully led the line in his repeated absence.
Hosts Marseille are unbeaten in six but just two victories in nine in front of their expectant home support should give the Corsicans hope. However, rather than invest my faith in the minnows, I’m backing Both Teams To Score at handsome 11/10 quotes from Bet365.
Gazalec have scored in each of their last seven, netting at least twice in their most recent three on the road. With Marseille failing to shutout any of their last seven Ligue 1 visitors, the guests should manage to get on the scoresheet.
Les Phoccens may be struggling with a bit of tiredness having been involved in Europa League action on Thursday although Michel’s men continued their impressive away record with a fifth win on the spin. In Ligue 1 they’ve W4-D3-L1 and W2-D2-L0 in their most recent four – their best run of the campaign.
Georges-Kevin Nkoudou has been in fine form – playing a part in five of Marseille’s last nine league goals – and even though Romain Alessandrini misses out, Marseille have plenty of goals in the team from the likes of Remy Cabella and sought-after striker Michy Batshuayi.
PSG v Lyon | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 2
PSG fielded a surprisingly strong squad for their final Champions League group-game against Shakhtar in midweek. The Parisians ran out comfortable 2-0 winners and were able to preserve their energy for the most part in a fairly routine performance.
Laurent Blanc’s side were already guaranteed second spot in the pool and with European progression secured and top spot in Ligue 1 bolted down, the defending champions have been on cruise control for a number of weeks now.
On Sunday they welcome back the hugely talented Marco Verratti from injury and they’ll be keen to flex their muscles against one of their supposed title challengers. The hosts are the only team across Europe’s top five leagues to remain unbeaten but their 45-point tally is only the second best record after 17 games – Sunday’s visitors Lyon collected 46 points in 2006/07.
There’ll be more comparisons between the two dominant clubs from each era ahead of the weekend’s match-up, adding a bit of spice to proceedings. So we should be able to rely on the Parisians to put on a beefed up show; they’ve W23-D3-L0 in their past 26 Ligue 1 games at the Parc des Princes and their 40 goals total at this stage of the campaign is their best ever return from 17 games.
The capital club have W5-D2-L0 when entertaining Lyon in league action, keeping five clean sheets, and with Les Gones still struggling to come close to last season’s levels, I’ll happily back PSG off a -1.75 start in the Asian Handicap market – we’ll bag a full pay-out if the hosts win by three or more goals but if the margin of victory is exactly two, we’ll still pocket half of that potential full pay-out.
Lyon were surprise winners at Valencia in midweek but both goals came against the run of play and with Hubert Fournier’s men already consigned to bottom of the group pre-match, the victory was of little significance.
More worryingly, striker Alexandre Lacazette picked up an injury and is now out until the New Year; with playmaker Mathieu Valbuena still trying to solve his legal issues from the sex tape scandal, the travellers will be without their two leading offensive threats.
Lyon’s decline began when Valbuena affair came to light and they’re now winless in four Ligue 1 outings (W0-D1-L3). Les Gones have managed a solitary win in six on the road (W1-D3-L2) at rock bottom Troyes and are also without a host of important personnel in defence and midfield.
Gueida Fofana, Nabil Fekir, Aldo Kalulu, Samuel Umtiti and Christophe Jallet are all absent as under-fire head coach Hubert Fournier experiments with yet another centre-back pairing by partnering Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa alongside Jeremy Morel.
Umtiti is Lyon’s best defender and in the nine matches he’s missed since the start of last season they’ve lost seven times, with their only win coming against cut-adrift Troyes. Furthermore, these haven’t been difficult matches as the four last season were all against bottom-half finishers.
PSG lead the table by 15 points and have scored at least twice in 23/28 Ligue 1 matches. They should have little trouble brushing aside a poor Lyon team on Sunday night.
Montpellier v Guingamp | Saturday 19.00
The Montpellier president deserves plenty of credit for sticking with Rolland Courbis after a dreadful start to 2015/16. La Paillade took a solitary point from a possible 21 and were rock bottom of the campaign but that run of results has been turned on its head.
MHSC have taken 15 points from 27 available to move out of the bottom-three and now their focus is on securing a top-half position. The hosts have W4-D3-L1 in their most recent eight and scored in six of their last eight Ligue 1 contests.
With long-term absentees Kevin Berigaud, Geoffrey Jourdren, Paul Lasne and Joris Marveaux still sidelined, Ryad Boudebouz has stepped up superbly to the false nine position whilst Casimir Ninga has flourished, becoming the first Montpellier player to score five or more goals in his first eight top-flight games since 1999/00.
Defensively they remain a little scratchy despite the presence of Hilton and Daniel Congre but from an offensive point of view, their counter-attacking system has worked a treat of late. Last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Marseille was well deserved, as was the recent thrashing of Lyon on the road.
Rolland Courbis’ men are 21/20 (BetVictor) shots to down Guingamp and with a W5-D4-L0 head-to-head return from the last nine meetings, the hosts shouldn’t fear their guests. The last eight duels in Montpellier have returned impressive W6-D1-L1 figures for La Paillade too.
Guingamp have been beaten in each of their last three and have now W1-D3-L4 from eight games. Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side appear to be suffering from fatigue as their small squad struggles to deal with the demands of injuries and suspensions.
Yannis Salibur returns this weekend but key forward Jimmy Briand is definitely out with EAG also sweating on the fitness of several key players including Dorian Leveque. With a W2-D1-L8 record from their last 11 Ligue 1 away games, it’s difficult to see the Brittany boys producing the gods.
Last time out, Guingamp suffered a 1-0 loss at Bordeaux but they were lucky to escape in a one-sided contest that easily have been three, four or five. The travellers have scored once in their last three and are worth opposing.
Montpellier v Guingamp – Montpellier to win (21/20 BetVictor)
Angers v Bordeaux – Angers draw no bet (4/5 Coral)
Marseille v GFC Ajaccio – Both Teams To Score (11/10 Bet365)
PSG v Lyon – PSG -1.75 Asian Handicap (1/1 888 Sport)
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