MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) talks us through his favourite fancies from the French Ligue 1 this weekend.
St Etienne v Caen | Sunday 16.00
At times St Etienne can be a hard team to second guess but with skipper and central defensive stalwart Loic Perrin expected to return and 13 wins from their last 19 at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, I’m willing to count on them this Sunday.
William Hill have made the home side 4/5 shots to pick up maximum points from the visit of Caen and that’s a price that holds plenty of appeal. Of course, going to extra-time in the Europa League on Thursday night isn’t ideal but Les Verts have been playing some decent stuff in recent weeks and should show their teeth here.
With victories in seven of their last eight games when welcoming Caen, another should be on the cards with the visitors missing two key defensive players. Centre-back Damien Da Silva and defensive midfielder Nicolas Seube are suspended for Patrice Garande’s men.
Since the start of last season, Stade have lost just 12 of 33 matches that both players have featured in compared to 16 of 32 when the duo have been absent. With forward paid Andy Delort and Ronny Rodelin bang out of form, their attack also looks toothless.
Caen had lost three on the spin before their 1-0 win over Rennes last weekend but under Garande they’ve managed just W2-D5-L9 when travelling to top-half teams. Compare that record with St Etienne’s wonderful 58/108 (54%) triumphs when hosting Ligue 1 action under Christophe Galtier and the hosts look a good thing on Sunday.
We can drill down a little further and see that, last season the visitors finished in the bottom-half and they’re only two points above 11th-placed coming into the weekend. Of those aforementioned 108 fixtures for Les Verts, 55 came against bottom-10 clubs and Sainte have bagged 40 three-points at the Geoffroy-Guichard – a win percentage of 73% when hosting bottom-half teams.
Lyon v PSG | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 2
PSG have effectively wrapped up the Ligue 1 title but they shouldn’t take their eye off the ball too much as they chase an unbeaten season.
Les Rouge-et-Bleu are a ridiculous 24 points clear at the summit of France’s top tier and handed out a crushing 4-1 defeat to Reims in the capital last weekend to follow up their 2-1 triumph against Chelsea in the first leg Champions League last-16 contest just days earlier.
Laurent Blanc’s men continue their quest for domestic domination when they bring their record-breaking ways to Lyon on Sunday night for the pick of the Ligue 1 games this weekend.
PSG are in the midst of a French top-flight record of 36 games unbeaten (W32-D4-L0) and look a touch overpriced at 4/5 (William Hill) to deliver another knockout blow in Ligue 1.
The runaway league leaders have W33-D14-L5 in 52 away fixtures under Blanc’s tutelage with 16 of those wins arriving by at least a two-goal margin. And with a 100% record from four previous head-to-heads with Lyon in 2015/16, they’ll fancy their chances at extending that streak on Sunday.
PSG’s four victories over Lyon this term have been by an aggregate 12-2 with only one of the matches ending in a win by a solitary goal margin.
Les Rouge-et-Bleu are looking unstoppable right now and have come out on top in 12 of their past 14 Ligue 1 road trips, scoring 67 goals in their league campaign already this season. Angel Di Maria and Marco Verratti are doubtful but Lyon are nursing their own injury concerns.
Right-back Christophe Jallet and centre-back Samuel Umtiti are confirmed absentees whilst Mathieu Valbuena and Corentin Tolisso are also struggling to be fit. With Les Gones never comfortable in the defensive phase and missing a few key figures at the back, containing Les Rouge-et-Bleu may be a problem.
PSG have enjoyed the luxury of an entire week without competitive football for the first time in 2016 and the refreshed guests should have plenty in the tank to extend their ridiculous run of results and make it 17 road wins in 19 and 10 away victories in 12 to top-half teams, at Stade des Lumières on Sunday evening.
Reims v Bordeaux | Saturday 19.00 | BT Sport 1
Reims must arrest their worryingly poor record at the Stade Auguste-Delaune if they’re to beat their battle against the drop.
Last weekend’s 4-1 thumping at PSG’s Parc des Princes was always on the cards but Les Rouge et Blanc were fortunate to remain one point outside of the bottom-three thanks to favourable results elsewhere.
However, the side from the Champagne region of France have been playing below-par for the majority of 2016. A switch from head coach Olivier Guegan to a new 3-5-2 formation has encouraged the side to more threatening in the opposition box but their more offensive approach has left Stade a little too exposed at the back.
Goalkeeper Johnny Placide has put in a string of outstanding displays between the sticks but their luck ran out a fortnight ago when terrible travellers Bastia departed Reims with maximum points. With just W1-D4-L5 as hosts since September, Guegan’s group look vulnerable favourites here.
Visiting Bordeaux are just one of eight teams to still have their eyes on grabbing a Champions League spot. Les Girondins have been battling a severe injury-crisis in recent weeks and have recovered well from heavy defeats to Lyon and St-Etienne earlier this month.
Willy Sagnol’s side have W5-D4-L2 in league action since early December and can call upon the services of Diego Contento and Andre Poko again this weekend. But Jaroslav Plasil and Mathieu Debuchy have been ruled out and bruising forward Cheikh Diabaté remains a doubt as the severe injury crisis that has engulfed the squad continues to bite hard.
The guests have claimed victory at Montpellier and Guingamp during that 11-game spree but since the start of last season, Bordeaux have collected just seven road successes in 32 Ligue 1 fixtures and just W2-D4-L5 in their last 11 at bottom-half clubs – reason enough to steer away from an angle on the away side.
Instead, goals look a little underrated, to me. During Sagnol’s tenure, Les Girondins have always looked to play front-foot, attacking football. Even during last weekend’s goalless draw with Nice, Bordeaux were the team pressing and pushing and will likely adopt a similar attitude on Saturday night.
Both Teams To Score has been chalked up as 7/8 with 888 and that seems generous when viewing the two teams’ fierce BTTS records.
A huge 9/14 (64%) of Reims’ home fixtures have featured goals for both sides and with Bordeaux following suit in 10/13 (77%), there’s implied probability of 63% and equivalent odds close to 8/13 available on both teams notching again this weekend.
The two teams have been torchbearers in the Both Teams To Score column since the start of last season – Reims have delivered winning BTTS bets in 18/33 (55%) of their Stade Auguste Delaune encounters whilst 18/32 (56%) of Bordeaux trips to Ligue 1 homes have also featured goals for both sides.
Troyes v Lorient | Saturday 19.00
Troyes are doomed in their battle against the drop but the rock-bottom Ligue 1 outfit can play their part in an enjoyable contest at their Stade de l'Aube home after four fixtures on their travels.
l'ESTAC have picked just two victories in 27, neither of which came on home soil. The hosts have seen fewer than three goals in eight of their last 11 as hosts with Under 1.5 Goals banking in exactly half of their most recent 12.
But since relegation was all but confirmed, Troyes performances have picked up. The squad has been utilised and the side are playing with reckless abandon – just last weekend they were a little unfortunate not to get something in a 3-1 loss at high-flying Monaco, conceding twice against the run of play.
Defensively, l'ESTAC remain well below-par but offensively they’re causing problems for opponents and I reckon they can give Lorient a few headaches on Saturday night with Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score standing out at 9/10 with Stan James.
Veteran Benjamin Nivet misses out through suspension for Troyes but Corentin Jean should return in attack. Nevertheless, the hosts have issues at centre-half so Chris Mavinga may need to partner Anele Ngcongca in the heart of a backline that’s boasted just three clean sheets all season.
Lorient are without suspended trio Didier Ndong, Rafidine Abdullah and Lamine Gassama whilst striker Benjamin Moukandjo is a major doubt. But replacement Benjamin Jeannot has shown he’s a force when in the mood and Majeed Waris scored twice in his return during last week’s breathtaking 4-3 derby win over Guingamp.
Without defensive midfielder Ndong, I do fear for Les Merlus. After all, the visitors have shipped at least two goals in each of their past six away days. However, Yann Jouffre is back from a ban and can provide the sparkle going forward that Sylvain Ripoll’s side so often showcase.
In 2016 the new-look Troyes’ eight fixtures are averaging 3.87 goals-per-game, with six matches breaking the Over 2.5 Goals line and five also producing winning Both Teams To Score. Six of those outings saw the bottom side leak at least two goals.
If you’re not already persuaded to follow me in, Lorient have seen Over 2.5 Goals prove profitable in 10/13 (77%) of their away days and 11/13 (85%) of those hack up for BTTS backers too.
Reims v Bordeaux – Both Teams To Score (7/8 888)
Troyes v Lorient – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (9/10 Stan James)
St Etienne v Caen – St Etienne to win (4/5 William Hill)
Lyon v PSG – PSG to win (5/6 William Hill)
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