MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from France’s Ligue 1 this weekend.
Monaco v Toulouse | Sunday 13.00 | BT Sport Extra
It’s not been a vintage year for Ligue 1 football. A perfect example of the French top-flight failing to spark, other than PSG’s ridiculous domination, is seeing Monaco sitting in second-place.
Leonardo Jardim’s men have been pants for the most part, relying on individual skill and talent to pinch points. Sure, they’re awkward opponents and deservedly claimed a 2-0 triumph over Lorient last time out in league but have they really been the second best team this term? Hmm.
To be fair, the principality club have W7-D7-L1 in their most recent 15 Ligue 1 outings, are unbeaten in eight (W0-D4-L4) and suffered only two losses in 25 at their Stade Louis II home (W10-D13-L2). But that high draw count perhaps emphasises my original point; they’re good but they’re not THAT good.
This weekend Les Rouges et Noir hope to bag an eighth win in 12 when welcoming bottom-six teams but they’ll have to do so without a host of players. Jérémy Toulalan has joined Adama Traoré, Almamy Touré, Elderson and Ivan Cavaleiro on the sidelines with Thomas Lemar and Nabil Dirar also major doubts.
The mounting injury list meant Jardim was forced to field close to his best available XI in their midweek cup clash with Ligue 2 side Evian. And Monaco were taken to extra-time before claiming a 3-1 triumph. I’ve contemplated opposing the hosts but the market is probably around the right price at the time of writing.
The home side rank a rather wretched 15th when viewing the shots-on-target ratio table (their share of the total on-target efforts when hosting league football) and Toulouse’s terrible road record is still quite off-putting.
Dominique Arribagé’s troops are unbeaten in their most recent three away trips (W2-D1-L0) – their best run since March 2014 – but they have lost each of their last eight visits to top-six teams, seven of which arrived by a margin of two goals or more.
So instead, I’m hoping to cash in on a Both Teams To Score bet with Coral offering 19/20 on Sunday. Toulouse might be languishing just one place off the bottom but showed plenty of grit, fight, ambition and inventiveness going forward against PSG in their cup and league meetings in the past seven days.
Although the visitors managed just one goal across those 120 minutes, they’d previously hit 22 goals in nine matches since late November in all competitions (W5-D3-L3). Wissam Ben Yedder’s netted their last four Ligue 1 goals and has managed six in his last seven.
He’ll be back in the fold along with Issa Diop, Öscar Trejo and Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro on Saturday having been rested in midweek and although Arribagé may opt to stick with his five-man backline, I still fancy TFC to grab a goal.- they’ve done so in 15/21 fixtures in 2015/16.
However, their poor form on the road and a defence that’s only away clean sheet came at rock-bottom and marooned Troyes is unlikely to shutout the hosts.
Lyon v Marseille | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 1
Ligue 1’s two big underachievers lock horns on Sunday night, tied together on 29 points and five points off the Champions League qualifying positions.
Lyon fell to a desperately disappointing 1-0 derby defeat to St Etienne last weekend. Bruno Génésio’s men kept possession well but rarely looked like opening up their bitter rivals’ backline and deservedly left empty-handed.
It means Les Gones’ sole success in eight Ligue 1 fixtures (W1-D1-L6) was their 4-1 victory over beleaguered Troyes when christening their their new stadium earlier this month.
Including Lyon’s results at their old Stade Gerland ground, the club have only come out on top in 11 of their previous 20 when welcoming league opposition and the hosts look overrated in the markets.
Marseille are coming off two impressive wins in the league and cup against difficult opposition in Caen and Montpellier. It means L’OM have suffered just one reverse in 18 games now and although the vast majority of those matches have been drawn, Michel’s men thrive on the road.
Les Phocéens have W5-D6-L1 in their last 12 Ligue 1 contests but taken 16 points from a possible 18 away from home. The guests have scored in each of their last eight on their travels and avoided defeat in 10 outside of their Stade Velodrome home.
I like the look of Marseille with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start at 8/11 (BetVictor) – like a Double Chance bet, we’ll get paid out should the visitors avoid defeat – Marseille have done so in six of their last 11 head-to-heads with Lyon, including five of the most recent six, as well as four of their last seven away to Sunday night’s hosts.
Nice v Lorient | Saturday 19.00
Are Nice a credible candidate to finish in the Champions League qualifying positions? That’s the question that’s been posed in France this week after Les Aiglons pocketed three points against previously second-placed Angers last Friday.
Two late penalties from Hatem Ben Arfa secured the 2-1 success and move Claude Puel’s team to within a point of the top-three. It’s now four fixtures unbeaten for the Côte d'Azur club and they’ve shown a great tendency to mix things up.
Puel’s men started the campaign in swashbuckling style, sweeping aside all before them. But in the past six to eight weeks, Nice have lined up in a more defensively-sound formation and began grinding out results, such as last weekend.
On Saturday night they welcome Lorient to the Allianz Riviera hoping to bag a third consecutive home Ligue 1 win for the first time since February 2014 and although Alassane Pléa, Mickaël Le Bihan, Mahamane Traoré and Ricardo Pereira are all absent with both Maxime Le Marchand and Mathieu Bodmer also doubts, they should have enough quality to continue their hot streak.
Lorient have managed just two triumphs in 12 (W2-D7-L3) and look highly unlikely to have either of their feared front two of Benjamin Moukandjo or Majeed Waris available. Les Merlus have fired blanks in their last two games without the pair with Benjamin Jeannot criticised for failing to take on the goalscoring burden.
In midweek, Sylvain Ripoll’s side were taken toe extra-time by third tier club Boulogne whilst central defender and skipper Wesley Lautoa was ruled out for the season. And that’s a major worry for a Lorient team that’s conceded in each of their last nine road trips.
Nice have netted at least twice on eight occasions this term and should be able to penetrate the visitors’ defence that’s kept just four shutouts in 21.
I’ll take a home win at 10/11 with Bet365.
Nice v Lorient – Nice to win (10/11 Bet365)
Monaco v Toulouse – Both Teams To Score (19/20 Coral)
Lyon v Marseille – Marseille +0.50 Asian Handicap (8/11 BetVictor)
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