MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) delves into the Ligue 1 coupon to pick out his best weekend bets.
St Etienne v GFCO Ajaccio | Saturday 19.00
St Etienne were sitting amongst Ligue 1’s top-three back in September following a rip-roaring start to the new season. Les Verts recorded W4-D1-L1 but before the international break Christophe Galtier’s men lost their way, being beaten in three games on the spin in all competitions.
A rudderless 4-1 spanking at home to Nice followed by a 1-0 reverse at Caen left Sainte reeling but the fortnight off has allowed weary bodies to recover and the two weeks on the training paddock should have at least allowed those nasty losses to be brushed aside.
The hosts have the perfect opportunity to bounce back to winning ways when tiny Gazalec arrive at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Saturday night. Although Les Verts are still nursing a number of injuries, Galtier’s troops are top-three material in France with their visitors by far-and-away the smallest side to ever play top-flight football.
That’s been reflected in Gazalec’s first nine games in Ligue 1. The Corsicans are winless, have W0-D1-L4 on the road and managed just one goal away from the island. Thierry Laurey’s troops make the journey without suspended captain Rodéric Filippi and David Ducourtioux and are simply just delighted to be mixing it with France’s elite.
The travellers promotion in itself was a remarkable achievement as Gazalec started their Ligue 2 campaign last season with the smallest budget but despite finishing runners-up, the Corsicans only won five away fixtures (four of which came against bottom-half clubs) as they notched two or more goals on only four occasions.
St Etienne have W8-D3-L1 in their past 12 Geoffroy-Guichard dates and boast a formidable W8-D2-L0 return when entertaining promoted clubs. And since Galtier arrived, Les Verts have W53-D26-L20 in 99 Ligue 1 matches on home soil – they kept 48 clean sheets in those games with 32/99 (32%) seeing the hosts clinch victory by at least two goals.
I’ll count on Sainte securing a win with attractive Asian Handicap odds of 11/12 (BetVictor) on St Etienne -1 available. This selection means we’ll get our cash back should the home side win by exactly one goal but be in profit with a two-goal victory or larger.
Bordeaux v Montpellier | Sunday 16.00 | BT Sport 2
Bordeaux have been struggling to balance a European campaign alongside domestic commitments and Willy Sagnol’s side succumbed to a 3-2 defeat at Lorient before the international break. That match marked the end of a series of seven competitive matches played in the space of only 23 days and so having a fortnight off will have done wonders to Les Girondins.
Refreshed following their two weeks of recovery, Bordeaux can also welcome back captain Lamine Sané and hitman Cheick Diabaté as they look to enhance their excellent run of results on home soil. The last visitors to the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux were Lyon and they departed with a 3-1 loss.
Les Girondins hold a W14-D6-L3 return from home fixtures under Sagnol’s watch, scoring in all bar one of those matches. They also boast an outstanding record when taking on Sunday afternoon’s struggling opponents Montpellier – Bordeuax have W18-D3-L1 in their last 22 home duels with La Paillade and bagging W4-D1-L0 in their previous five meetings at home or away.
Rolland Courbis' future at the helm of the travellers remains shrouded in doubt as Montpellier put in another dismal display against Lille last time out. The 2012 champions are four points off 17th-placed Toulouse having W1-D1-L9 with five of their six goals arriving from set-piece situations.
The visitors have kept just one clean sheet this term and W0-D1-L3 on the road with that away return reading W1-D1-L7 in their most recent nine league games as guests. But arguably most concerning about this weekend’s clash is, Montpellier’s wretched absentee list.
Long-term injuries continue to keep Morgan Sanson, Jamel Saihi, Kévin Berigaud and Geoffrey Jourdren out of action whilst the deadline day sale of Anthony Mounier is hitting the team hard. Strikers Souleymane Camara and Mustapha Yatabaré have now been added to the casualty list and with suspensions to Bryan Dabo and Ramy Bensebaini extending Courbis' woe, La Paillade head to south-west France without any recognised strikers.
Montpellier tend to keep things tight on their travels (Under 2.5 Goals in 10/12 away and Under 1.5 Goals in 10/20 away) but with Wahbi Khazri pulling the strings and Bordeaux opening the scoring in nine of their previous 12 as hosts, one goal could well be enough for the superior hosts to pick up maximum points. Bordeaux are 17/20 with William Hill.
Rennes v Nice | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 1
Before the international break I suggested yet another Both Teams To Score bet when Nice hosted Nantes and with the score tied at 2-2 at half-time, torrential rain saw the match abandoned and are stake returned. Regular readers of the Ligue 1 column will know, the Nice BTTS bet has proven a treasure trove in France this term and I’ve no intention to leave it alone on Sunday night.
I’m almost prepared to back it blindly with William Hill’s 10/11 just looking far too big to ignore and I’ll recall the stats from a fortnight ago alongside the latest team news and trends below to back-up another punt on Both Teams To Score.
Nice have scored 20 goals in their first eight fixtures – their best return since 1975 – and a huge 17 of those have come from open play. Claude Puel’s troops have won three on the spin, scoring at least three goals in each. The hosts boast the most prolific attack in the league (despite playing a game fewer following that abandonment) and have Hatem Ben Arfa in the form of his life – not since 2008/09 has he netted six goals or more at this stage.
Nampalys Mendy and Maxime Le Marchand were red carded in their last success and both will be suspended at Rennes. Without Mendy, their defensive shield, you do wonder if the Eagles have a chance to end a barren run of 14 top tier games without a clean sheet. Mendy’s only missed five matches since the start of 2013/14 and Nice have conceded 12 goals – double their rate with him in the team.
The Eagles have had defensive selection issues all season long and this weekend Puel will be forced to field third-choice goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale between the sticks. striker Alassane Pléa remains sidelined but with Ben Arfa and Valère Germain still available to lead the offence, the visitors should continue to reward goal-hungry punters.
Rennes have proven just as fruitful. Les Rouges et Noirs have notched in all their Ligue 1 outings, a record only PSG can match, with Both Teams To Score proving profitable in all bar two of those nine encounters. Highly-rated Paul-Georges Ntep won’t feature but Giovanni Sio and Yacouba Sylla return from suspension to bolster Philippe Montanier's men.
The hosts have W10-D5-L0 in their last 16 when welcoming Nice to Brittany and Rennes also approach this match with a W4-D4-L0 return from their first eight. Their past four have ended in 1-1 draws, mind. A repeat at Roazhon Park in front of the live cameras on Sunday night is a big runner.
With Rennes’ boasting their own excellent BTTS record, Nice have followed suit in 7/8 themselves this term, in 13/23 (57%) on the road since the start of last season as well as seeing Over 2.5 Goals collect in nine of their last 11 plus 16 of their previous 20 going further back. At almost even-money, it’s another steal.
St Etienne v GFCO Ajaccio – St Etienne -1 Asian Handicap (11/12 BetVictor)
Bordeaux v Montpellier – Bordeaux to win (17/20 William Hill)
Rennes v Nice – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
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