MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from France’s Ligue 1 card this weekend.
Caen v Rennes | Sunday 16.00 | BT Sport Extra
As recently as December, Caen were flying high in second. However, a W2-D2-L7 return from their last 11 games has seen Patrice Garande’s group plummet down the standings and into mid-table.
Alarmingly, SMC seem to have downed tools in 2016. The Normandy outfit have lost five of their seven Ligue 1 contests this calendar year and failure to record maximum points on Sunday could see them slip into the bottom-half for the first time in 2015/16.
The sanctuary of home hasn’t helped, either. The hosts have lost four of their last five at the Stade Michel d'Ornano and interestingly, when excluding the bottom third, Caen have only W2-D1-L5 when hosting domestic opposition.
Emmanuel Imorou is likely be fit to provide SMC with a boost but injured midfielders Jonathan Delaplace and Ismaël Diomandé remain out. Playmaker Julien Féret may also return having gotten over the worst of the flu that’s kept him out of action of late.
Still, I think the odds are being a little kind on Caen here. Rennes are averaging well over a 50% share of the total shots-on-target in away fixtures this season and so it’s no surprise to see them lose out in just one of their last 12 road trips (W5-D6-L1).
Sure, the visitors are winless on their travels since Rolland Courbis took charge but they dominated Angers last weekend and are well capable of enhancing their recent W4-D4-L2 form across their last 10 fixtures.
The visitors have only failed to net once in 13 away days and so with Caen managing just a sole home success when conceding a goal at the Michel d'Ornano, backing Les Rouges et Noirs in the Draw No Bet market appeals at 19/20 with Coral.
PSG v Reims | Saturday 16.00
I was a little disturbed at the amount of dissenting voices dismissing PSG before their Champions League game with Chelsea on Tuesday night.
I understand Les Rouge-et-Bleu operate in a totally different stratosphere to their Ligue 1 rivals but even so, they proved in last season’s competition they’re as good as any top level European club. And they’ve only gotten stronger since with the acquisition of Angel Di Maria.
Anyhow, I felt PSG confirmed their place as serious Champions League contenders with a confident and esteemed display when beating Chelsea in the French capital in midweek.
The defending French champions were sharp and incisive in attack and although the Blues did force Les Rouge-et-Bleu’s backline into a few blind allies on the counter-attack, the runaway Ligue 1 leaders were deserved winners.
Now Laurent Blanc’s men return to domestic action as they bid to continue their record-breaking ways in the French top tier. PSG will be looking to enhance their French top-flight record of 35 games unbeaten (W31-D4-L0) when Reims arrive on Saturday.
The hosts are looking to complete an invincible campaign with serious sights on having the title wrapped up before they head to London in March for the return leg with Chelsea. Real Madrid are the only side to beat PSG this season and across their last 23 matches, Les Parisiens have W21-D2-L0.
PSG’s form at their Parc des Princes home has been equalling devastating – they’ve W26-D6-L0 to form their second longest invincible streak in Ligue 1.
Inspirational leader Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in fine fettle, contributing to 29 of their league goals this season – more than any other player in France’s top tier – and so with all these exceptional stats and trends in our favour, PSG are restrictively short in the betting.
So lets head to the Asian Handicap market where Blanc’s boys look far too big to turn down. BetVictor are offering 7/8 on PSG with a -1.75 start – backing this selection essentially means we’ll make money should the capital club beat Reims by two or more goals.
We’ll collect a full pay-out if PSG win by three or more goals with a victory by exactly two goals seeing our half our bet deemed a winner and half our stake returned as a push. The only way in which we won’t pick up profit is if Les Parisians manage just a one-goal win or fail to record maximum points.
Since Blanc arrived at the club, PSG have W40-D9-L1 in home domestic league fixtures – 34 (68%) of those encounters were delivered with wins by at least a two-goal margin with 19 (38%) arriving by a margin of three goals or more.
Full-backs Layvin Kurzawa and Grégory Van der Wiel may get the nod over Maxwell and Marquinhos, while Edinson Cavani will expect to start having come off the bench to net the winner against Chelsea in midweek as the PSG boss rotates his troops. But even so, PSG should prove far too strong.
Lowly visitors Reims slid to a very poor 1-0 home defeat to fellow scrappers Bastia last weekend with goalkeeper Johny Placide making a costly error. However, the visiting cat has been in inspired form of late mind and will be in for a busy afternoon in Paris.
Stade have W2-D4-L4 in their past 10 outings and their W2-D3-L6 road record across their most recent 11 matches has also contributed to their season of struggle. And the guests are still without injured quartet Grejohn Kyei, Hugo Rodriguez, Frédéric Bulot and Jordan Siebatcheu, with Alexis Peuget joining them on the sidelines now too.
With five of their eight losses under Oliver Guegan’s tenure arriving by a margin of at least two goals, a repeat on Saturday looks more than likely against a PSG side that’s enjoyed nearly 71% of the total shots-on-target in their Parc des Princes outings.
Lorient v Guingamp | Saturday 19.00
Six points from a possible 27 (W1-D3-L5) have kept Lorient entrenched in the bottom-half of the Ligue 1 table, just four points above the drop zone.
Nevertheless, Sylvain Ripoll’s squad have been tough to beat on the artificial surface of their Stade du Moustoir home. In fact, only top-two PSG and Monaco have left with maximum points across their last 11 league outings (W5-D4-L2) and when excluding the top-six they’ve returned W5-D3-L0.
Looking purely at Les Merlus' return when hosting bottom-half teams, Ripoll’s men hold a very strong W8-DD2-L3 record.
So with dynamic duo Benjamin Moukandjo and Majeed Waris back in tandem up front for Les Merlus, they should prove too strong for fellow strugglers Guingamp in Saturday night’s six-pointer. Lorient are 5/4 shots with William Hill and that’s a price I’m more than happy to get stuck into.
Guingamp have returned just W3-D3-L6 in their last 12 matches and have recorded a solitary success in eight road trips (W1-D3-L4). The visitors have notched just six goals in 13 away days and been beaten on seven occasions on their travels.
Younousse Sankharé is back from suspension for Jocelyn Gourvennec’s men but they remain without defensive midfield skipper Lionel Mathis as well as their first choice back-four. Without Mathis they’ve lost 13 of 23 matches since the start of last season with awful W1-D2-L7 figures recorded on the road.
Centre-back pair Jérémy Sorbon and Christophe Kerbrat are absent through injury and suspension and are joined on the sidelines by crocked full-backs Full-backs Dorian Lévêque and Jonathan Pereira. It means Benjamin Angoua and Franck Héry may play in an unusual looking backline.
With defeats arriving in 10 of Guingamp's last 11 away matches when they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet, the writing looks on the wall.
Last weekend the visitors fell to a surprising 4-2 home defeat to Bordeaux, ending a seven-match unbeaten run in the process. They’re still level on points with their Brittany hosts but neither Jimmy Briand nor Mevlut Erdinc are looking anything close to top form in attack.
I’m happy to take the home win but it might be worth having a small something on the Draw-Lorient Half-Time/Full-Time market too at handsome 9/2 quotes with 888 Sport. EAG have conceded 24 of their 34 goals (71%) after the half-time oranges with 21/32 (66%) away games since the start of last season being level at the interval.
PSG v Reims – PSG -1.75 Asian Handicap (7/8 BetVictor)
Lorient v Guingamp – Lorient to win (5/4 William Hill)
Lorient v Guingamp – Draw-Lorient (9/2 888 Sport)
Caen v Rennes – Rennes draw no bet (19/20 Coral)
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