MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite French fancies from Tuesday night’s card.
Angers v PSG | Tuesday 18.00 | BT Sport Europe
Angers finished third in Ligue 2 last season, a full 14 points off the summit. Troyes were the second tier champions and won the division at a canter. So obviously, Angers are sitting third in Ligue 1 after 15 games (W7-D5-L3) whilst Troyes are rock bottom (W0-D5-L10).
It’s been a remarkable achievement from Le SCO to be sitting above the likes of Lyon, Marseille, Monaco and Bordeaux as we approach Christmas but Stephane Moulin’s limited side have managed it by seeing off the lesser lights and hanging in against the league’s big guns.
Angers have taken just three of their 26 points against top-half teams (W0-D3-L3) compared to 23 points (W7-D2-L0) against bottom-half dwellers. They’re dull as dishwater, focussing on set-pieces and percentage football in the right areas but it’s been working for Moulin and his inexperienced charges.
At their Stade Jean-Bouin home, the hosts have seen Under 2.5 Goals bank in all eight fixtures with fewer than two goals being recorded in 5/8 matches. And Angers have kept their sheets clean in six of those contests when welcoming Ligue 1 opposition. Respect.
However, Saturday’s 2-0 success over Lille was the first time in five they’d manage to score themselves and also the first game in which Le SCO had scored twice on their own patch since promotion. Both goals came predictably from set-pieces but I don’t expect the north-western outfit to be quite as fortunate on Tuesday.
PSG are well on their way to breaking every Ligue 1 record going this season and have already guaranteed themselves top spot for the Christmas break after securing the symbolic title of Autumnal champion against Troyes at the weekend.
Laurent Blanc’s men dominated Troyes from start to finish to win 4-1, only conceding in the dying embers of an emotional Parc des Princes outing. Les Rouge et Bleu have now won nine on the spin in domestic action and W13-D2-L0 this season in Ligue 1.
The capital club have secured victories in all bar three of their last 11 trips to promoted teams but have failed to score at least twice in half of their away trips this term. Blanc is likely to rotate his squad on Tuesday night and with that in mind, PSG may not run out as convincing winners as the odds suggest.
Since taking over, Blanc has guided the defending champions to W28-D13-L5 on their travels with 13 of those victories arriving by two goals or more – just three have been managed in eight in 2015/16 and Angers’ supremely organised backline could frustrate the star-studded visitors.
PSG to win and Under 2.5 Goals makes the most appeal at 2/1 (Boylesports), to me. Angers’ matches are averaging 1.53 goals-per-game whilst the guests have kept their sheets clean in 8/15 Ligue 1 games this season.
Lorient v Nice | Tuesday 18.00
I knew what I was backing (and I’m sure you did too) before I even looked at the odds for this fixture but since deciding on another Both Teams To Score bet at 9/11 with 888, injury news has taken the gloss of this contest a little.
The two most attack-minded clubs in Ligue 1 on current form could and should throw up a riveting encounter but Lorient are sweating on the fitness of top goalscorer Benjamin Moukandjo whilst Nice are missing Hatem Ben Arfa due to a virus.
Moukandjo is Ligue 1’s top goalgetter this season with 11 and with Majeed Waris already sidelined through suspension, Sylvain Ripoll’s attacking options could be limited. Still, Les Merlus are expected to push Raphael Guerreiro back into his preferred left-wing role in a switch back to 4-4-2 after deciding on a 4-5-1 with three defensive midfielders at GFC Ajaccio on Saturday.
Right-back Lamine Gassama also misses out for the hosts who’ve W6-D4-L2 in their previous 12 and I’m expecting a more forceful performance than the timid display they put in at the weekend. Only their guests and PSG have scored more than Lorient’s 24-goal total and only twice in 15 have they failed to net this term.
It’s then probably no surprise to see Les Merlus have been involved in plenty of winning BTTS bets – 12 of their last 13 have rewarded Both Teams To Score backers now as well as 12/15 (80%) in Ligue 1 football, including six of their eight on the Stade du Moustoir’s artificial surface.
You don’t need me to tell you about Nice’s BTTS claims. Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Toulouse saw goalkeeper Mouez Hassen sent off after half an hour but even so, the Eagles came within a whisker of grabbing a goal through Ben Arfa. It was the first occasion this season that Claude Puel’s men had failed to score on the road.
The Nice boss was forced to abandon his 3-5-2 formation but Ligue 1's second-highest scorers have shown what they’re capable of with that approach when demolishing Lyon 3-0 a week previous. On their travels, the Eagles have W4-D2-L2, scoring three or more goals on four occasions already, so should have no qualms about visiting Brittany this midweek.
Obviously Ben Arfa’s absence is a blow. His form this season has seen him reclaim his spot in the France squad and the visitors have averaged exactly two goals-per-game this season with Ben Arfa playing all 15 matches this season. But going back to the start of last season, BTTS has banked in 15/27 (56%) of their away days. More recently, it’s proven a successful formula in 11/15 of the Eagles road trips and all bar two in 2015/16.
As a side note, Nice are 13/10 (Bet365) to open the scoring – they’ve done so in nine of their last 15 away from the French Riviera whilst Lorient have leaked first in nine of their past 13 on home soil.
Nantes v Lyon | Tuesday 20.00 | BT Sport Europe
Lyon head coach Hubert Fournier has received the backing of club president Jean-Michel Aulas following Friday's humiliating 4-2 home defeat to Montpellier. It was Lyon’s fourth loss in five with the strain of a long injury list and the Champions League starting to take its toll.
Les Gones have been beaten in their last three since the international break, have lost their place in the top-three in Ligue 1 and been dumped out of the Champions League. Friday’s reverse was the first time this term they’ve conceded four goals and with Nabil Fekir out long-term, Mathieu Valbuena’s loss of form has compounded Lyon’s misery.
Valbuena’s clearly been affected by his off-field scandal and with Clement Grenier still returning to full fitness, Lyon are missing an experienced leader to take a hold of the midfield. Maxime Gonalons should be moved forward from a makeshift defensive spot for Tuesday’s clash with Bakary Kone, Lindsay Rose or Jeremy Morel aiming for a recall following Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s suspension. The visitors will be missing injured goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.
Nantes have struggled for consistency this season and arrive with just one win in five (W1-D1-L3), to sit as many points away (8) from the relegation zone as they do from a direct Champions League spot. On Saturday night they controlled proceedings with lowly Bastia but failed to find a breakthrough in a 0-0 stalemate.
The Canaries struggle to breakdown defensive-minded sides but that shouldn’t prove too much of a problem against Lyon. Despite not scoring in their last two, Michel Der Zakarian’s men are well capable of causing their more illustrious visitors problems and look a little underrated in the pre-match markets.
It should be said, Nantes are without a number of players – Wilfried Moimbe and Alejandro Bedoya the latest to join the absentee list with goalkeeper Remy Riou considered a major doubt. But left-wing Johan Audel is back and Remi Gomis returns from suspension for the home team to bolster their chances.
We know what to expect from the Canaries – they’ll look to keep things tight and exploit Lyon on the counter – and their Stade de la Beaujoire matches are normally low on goals. Since the start of last season, a huge 19/26 (76%) of Nantes’ home Ligue 1 outings have featured Under 2.5 Goals with the hosts recording 10 clean sheets.
With Under 2.5 Goals too short to venture near, I prefer a play on Nantes at 8/11 with Bet365 in the Double Chance market.
Angers v PSG – PSG to win and Under 2.5 Goals (2/1 Boylesports)
Lorient v Nice – Both Teams To Score (9/11 888)
Nantes v Lyon – Nantes double chance (8/11 Bet365)
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