WE’RE three weeks down in the new Ligue 1 season and Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) reckons he’s found a few tasty French fancies this weekend.
Lyon v Rennes | Saturday 16.00
I opposed Lyon last weekend and it looked like being a winning play until Claudio Beauvue came on and scored for Les Gones against his old club Guingamp. Hubert Fournier’s team were far from their fluid self and star striker Alexandre Lacazette appeared to be struggling with the injury picked up the previous week.
Lyon return to their Stade Gerland base on Saturday with likely home debuts to be handed out to Mathieu Valbuena and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and there’s plenty of belief swirling around the club once more. Despite opening their account with a dreadfully disappointing goalless draw with Lorient in front of their home supporters, Les Gones hit the post and had 21 efforts on goal in a frustrating afternoon.
But normal business should be resumed this time around. Last term Fournier’s men were ruthless operators at the Gerland (W14-D3-L2) and I’d be surprised if the hosts failed to record their first three points of the new campaign. The hosts have beaten Rennes in four of the last six head-to-heads whilst keeping clean sheets in five of those battles.
The visitors snatched a win at home to Montpellier last weekend in a forgetful clash and were sloppy in a 2-1 loss against Bastia on the opening day. Manager Philippe Montanier is coming under increasing pressure to get the Red and Blacks competing for European places again but their road form leaves little to be desired.
Montanier’s men lost 9/20 (45%) away games since the start of last season and failed to even score in six of their eight visits to top-eight finishers. With only five efforts on target to their name in 2015/16, the evidence to oppose Rennes continues to grow. To make matters worse, centre-half Pedro Mendes is suspended, key forward Paul-Georges Ntep injured and midfield maurader Abdoulaye Doucoure unavailable.
Rennes have lost six of their past 11 on the road (W2-D3-L6) and are unlikely to pose the hosts too many problems in the attacking third. BetVictor are offering 10/13 on Lyon -0.75 in the Asian Handicap and that appeals – we’ll pocket a winner should the hosts come out on top by two goals or more and even take home half of that potential full payout if Fournier’s troops only manage a single-goal victory.
Nice v Caen | Saturday 19.00
Nice have taken just a point from their first two Ligue 1 encounters and Claude Puel will no doubt be frustrated with such a poor return. Les Aiglons displayed plenty of craft and guile when going down to Monaco 2-1 on the opening weekend before squandering a 3-1 lead against newly-promoted Troyes last Saturday night.
New signing Hatem Ben Arfa has already looked at home on the French Riviera alongside fellow forwards Valere Germain and Alassane Plea and Nice now look a serious beast when going forward. The hosts have netted in 13 of their past 14 league fixtures whilst Plea has been involved in three of their four already this season.
Unfortunately for Puel though, Les Aiglons have looked less than impressive at the back. Nice have been hampered by a bout of injuries with the likes of Romain Genevois, Niklas Hult, Mathieu Bodmer, Mahamane Traoré and Simon Pouplin all sidelined. Jordan Amavi’s yet to be replaced and the home side may well field an experimental defence for Saturday night’s match.
With France a traditionally a low-scoring league, both the hosts and this weekend’s opponents Caen buck that trend and I’m hopeful the two can serve up an entertaining encounter that sees Both Teams Score (8/9 888 Sport). It’s a bet that’s won in 13/20 (65%) of Nice’s matches at their Allianz Riviera home since the start of last season and in 12/20 (60%) of Caen’s road trips across the same span.
The visitors have snatched 1-0 victories over Marseille and Toulouse in their first two fixtures but SMC’s goal led a charmed life in both outings. Patrice Garande’s men are slightly fortunate to have posted back-to-back wins ‘to nil’ and head south without the services of left-back Emmanuel Imorou and centre-back Alaeddine Yahia, weakening an already wobbly backline.
Still, former Wigan forward Andy Delort has looked sharp leading the visitors forward line that’s failed to net in only six of their past 32 matches. Caen have only shut their opposition out in four away days since promotion back to the top-flight but managed to score in 15/20 and will expect to continue that streak against a Nice side that’s collected six clean sheets since September 2014.
Marseille v Troyes | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 1
It’s been a nightmare start to the new season for Marseille. Les Phocéens were beaten 1-0 in their own backyard by Caen on the opening weekend, missing a catalogue of chances and rattling the woodwork along the way. Immediately after the match renegade coach Marcelo Bielsa handed in his resignation.
Still suffering from the trauma of the previous seven days, L’OM went on to put in a limp performance to lose 1-0 at Reims last time out. But the club have moved swiftly this week to seal a deal for former Olympiakos and Sevilla boss Michel to take over the reigns at Stade Velodrome and his appointment should at least give the side a bit of stability.
Michel appears committed to honouring the 4-2-3-1 formation favoured by his predecessor meaning major changes are unlikely. Remi Cabella is likely to be given his debut following his signing from Newcastle and Michy Batshuayi will be tasked with getting the gaols despite an off-target start to 2015/16.
Marseille’s new leader may have only been in the job for three days but an encounter against newly-promoted Troyes should allow the hosts to finally get points and goals on the board. Although L’OM have only W2-D2-L4 in their last eight at the Velodrome, longer-term trends point to 13 wins from 19 outings.
The visitors finished 13 points clear as champions of the second tier last term but seven road defeats suggests ESTAC aren’t totally suited to playing away. The early signs point to a team well capable of competing with France’s elite but their cavalier approach may work against Jean-Marc Furlan’s charges from time to time.
Troyes will be without the suspended Chris Mavinga following his red card in their ding-dong 3-3 with Nice last time out and he’ll be joined on the sidelines by Rincon. Those absentees will rob Furlan’s men of two of their key defensive performers on Sunday night and so the smart money may be on backing Marseille to notch more than one goal.
The home side have scored Over 1.5 Goals in 16 of those aforementioned 19 matches at the Velodrome and can be snapped up at 4/5 with Bet365 to follow suit. Whilst Troyes deserve plaudits for their enterprising efforts over the first two weeks, they’ve looked far from secure at the back and may pay with a patched up defence on show.
Nice v Caen – Both Teams To Score (8/9 888 Sport)
Lyon v Rennes – Lyon -0.75 Asian Handicap (10/13 BetVictor)
Marseille v Troyes – Marseille to score Over 1.5 Goals (4/5 Bet365)
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