FIVE winners from his past six Ligue 1 tips, Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) French fancies are proving very profitable of late. Can he continue his hot streak this weekend?
Lyon v Nice | Saturday 15.00
With just nine games left of the Ligue 1 season, hands up who had Lyon leading the title charge? If you’ve put your hand up, you’re lying!
Last weekend OL held out for a 0-0 draw at challengers Marseille while defending champions PSG were downed by Bordeaux. It left Hubert Fournier’s table-toppers two points clear with no more visits to top-eight sides. Is it time to start believing?
Les Gones traded chances and opportunities with Marseille with France’s top goalscorer Alexandre Lacazette wasteful for Fournier’s men. But I don’t expect a repeat this weekend as Lyon welcome Nice to Stade Gerland, in search of three points that will take their dreams a little closer to reality.
The fallen French giants must do without the suspended trio of Lacazette, Samuel Umtiti, and Henri Bedimo but their almost flawless record in front of their home supporters (W12-D1-L1) plus a recent run of W9-D4-L1 should stand Les Gones in good stead for this fixture.
Lyon have secured eight of their 12 home victories by a margin of two goals or more and so I’m keen to dive in on Bet365’s even-money offer on the hosts -1 in the Asian Handicap market. Taking this selection means, should the hosts win by a solitary goal, we’ll get our cash back. But if Fournier’s league leaders put Nice to the sword and come out on top by a margin of two goals or more, we’ll have ourselves a winner.
Bedraggled Nice have been crippled by injury and suspension problems in the recent weeks and last weekend’s home defeat to Guingamp saw Les Aiglons sink to just five points above the dreaded drop zone. These are worrying times for Claude Puel’s visitors who’ve lost exactly half of their 14 road trips this term and been beaten in their previous four games.
Club president Jean-Pierre Rivère pleaded for an improved performance last weekend and is growing ever more frustrated and concerned with his team’s plight. Having W6-D7-L20 of their last 33 road trips and W1-D8-L17 in 26 previous away days in Lyon, it would be a big surprise if Les Aiglons avoided defeat.
Lacazette’s absence may put punters off the youthful hosts but Nice have their own selections worries as defenders Souleymane Diawara and Grégoire Puel are both suspended and there’s enough flair and adventure in the league leaders to believe they can despatch their free-falling visitors comfortably.
Caen v Metz | Saturday 19.00
Daft Punk’s 1997 hit ‘Around The World’ is said to mention the song title around 144 times and at the repeat of suggesting the same bet over and over and over and over again, the message is clear. We simply must oppose Metz, again!
I’ve praised Caen’s incredible turnaround in fortunes from 2014 to 2015 in recent columns and although their stunning W6-D1-L0 run was ended by back-to-back defeats to Bordeaux and Lorient, allowances can be made for those losses.
Patrice Garande’s men suffered costly red cards in both games and were undone by a 94th minute penalty against Bordeaux a fortnight ago. Should Caen’s keep their discipline in check, a home win should be as good as a formality for ta side that continues to carve out goalscoring opportunities at will. William Hill have offered 10/11 on the hosts and that’s good enough for me.
SMC and club president Jean-François Fortin were cleared of all corruption charges this week so while the troubled Normandy club have escaped demotion, they still need to complete Ligue 1 survival. The news will certainly relive a lot of pressure and should, in theory, give Caen and their supporters a big boost.
Opponents Metz are sitting rock bottom of the table and heading straight back to Ligue 2. Their past 17 league outings have returned W0-D4-L13 figures and the visitors have failed to even trouble the scoresheet in 12 of their 15 away days since winning promotion back to France’s top-flight.
Last weekend’s 3-2 home defeat to St Etienne showcased their horrendous defensive flaws with the scoreline massively flattering the relegation-haunted side. Metz’s goals came from a last minute penalty and a long-range strike against the run of play. With a 10-point gap to safety, coach Albert Cartier is resigned to dropping back down to the second tier but things could get uglier before now and May.
Lens v Marseille | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 1
Marseille will be kicking themselves. Marcelo Bielsa’s men could and probably should have taken maximum points from their battle against Lyon last weekend but the 0-0 draw has left Les Phocéens four points off the top. The Ligue 1 title isn’t done and dusted but they missed a great chance to close to within a point of the table-toppers.
OM certainly had the best of the chances against Lyon. André-Pierre Gignac hit a post and saw a header expertly saved by Anthony Lopes while Lucas Ocampos looked to have forced the ball over the line, only for the officials to wave play on. With PSG and Monaco still to visit the Velodrome, Marseille know they must beat their rivals and keep on collecting points on the road.
This Sunday they head to relegation-threatened Lens and although their form on their travels has been suspect and patchy (W5-D4-L5), Les Phocéens have W5-D3-L1 when visiting teams in 10th and below. And lets not forget their last away day resulted in a 6-1 smashing of Toulouse!
Defensively Bielsa’s boys remain a little suspect and Nicolas Nkoulou remains sideliend. This weekend he’ll be joined by Jeremy Morel but I still think the 17/20 from Coral on an away win is the bet to play here. Marseille have lost just once in seven Ligue 1 fixtures and there’s a feeling they’re ready to give their title challenge one last push.
Hosts Lens have W1-D3-L6 in their previous 10 and hold a horrid record when facing France’s best. Fourteen fixtures against top-half sides have resulted in a return of W1-D3-L10 for Antoine Kombouare's men and their W4-D3-L7 return at their adopted Stade de la Licorne home is the worst amongst top-tier sides.
Lyon v Nice – Lyon -1 Asian Handicap (1/1 Bet365)
Caen v Metz – Caen to win (10/11 William Hill)
Lens v Marseille – Marseille to win (17/20 Coral)