MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from France this weekend.
GFC Ajaccio v Montpellier | Saturday 19.00
GFC Ajaccio suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss against Rennes last time out as Rodéric Filippi's injury-time own goal put an end to their remarkable 14-game unbeaten streak in all competitions (W8-D6-L0).
Following a wretched start to their debut Ligue 1 campaign (W0-D3-L7), Gazalec remain just four points above the drop zone so it’s paramount Thierry Laurey’s team get back to their unbeaten ways sooner rather than later. A visit from fellow strugglers Montpellier should at least focus the minds.
Back at their Stade Ange Casanova base, the Corsicans will look to extend their excellent recent run (W5-D6-L0) with victory and at 13/16 (Marathon), the hosts look a handy selection in the Draw No Bet market.
After four consecutive Ligue 1 losses, the visitors dispensed with managerial duo Pascal Baills and Bruno Martini. Frédéric Hantz was brought in this week, the fourth head coach of the campaign, to rescue Les Héraultais from relegation.
The former Bastia manager will be without suspended Daniel Congréplus injured quartet Geoffrey Jourdren, Joris Marveaux, Paul Lasne and Morgan Sanson for his return to Corsica on Saturday night and I’m not convinced he’ll be able to stop the bleeding so soon.
Sanson’s a major miss and although he’s played just 31 games since the start of last season, the influence he’s had is plain to see. With the central midfielder in the team, Montpellier have won 14 of their 31 matches (45%), scoring 1.29 goals-per-game. When he’s been absent, La Paillade have won just eight of 29 (28%), netting exactly 1.00 goal-per-game.
Montpellier have only W2-D5-L9 in their last 16 away Ligue 1 trips, firing blanks in their most recent two. The guests have failed to record a clean sheet in 11 league outings and suffered five defeats in seven.
Once again, Gazalec are underrated and worth supporting but if you prefer a different angle, 14 of Montpellier’s last 18 away days have featured fewer than three goals – 10 of their most recent 16 producing Under 1.5 Goals. The hosts have seen Unders bank in seven of their 11 on the island.
Caen v Nice | Sunday 13.00 | BT Sport Extra
Caen’s clash with Nice promises to produce a few goals and so I’m heading back to an old favourite and chancing Both Teams To Score at 5/6 (Matchbook).
Last week we posed the question – are Nice genuine candidates for a top-three finish? Well, Claude Puel’s side cemented their position with three points against Lorient but showed enough defensive flaws to suggest they’re not quite the finished article.
The Eagles are unbeaten in five (W3-D2-L0) and drawn three on the spin away but the Cote d’Azur side remain pretty potent in attack – only runaway league leaders PSG have scored more goals and their past four fixtures have resulted in both teams scoring.
Eight of Nice’s last 10 trips to top-half teams have seen at least three goals and it’s been a similar tale with Caen. The hosts have been involved in 8/13 Over 2.5 Goals matches when welcoming Ligue 1 opposition whilst seven of their last 10 saw both teams score.
The home side returned to winning ways last time out (W1-D2-L4) but three home defeats on the spin and a winless record against top-five clubs this season (W0-D3-L3) means they’ll need to be at their best to stop Nice.
Influential left-back Emmanuel Imorou is suspended and Caen have only succeeded in five of the 21 matches he’s missed since the start of last season – they’ve bagged 17 triumphs in 39 with him in the side. Fellow defender Damien Da Silva is also absent.
Caen have shutout just once of their last 12 opponents, seen Over 2.5 Goals in 16/27 Stade Michel d'Ornano outings, including 15 of 19 when conceding and should be able to grab a goal in what’s expected to be be a lively encounter.
Bordeaux v Rennes | Sunday 16.00 | BT Sport Extra
Goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso is the latest player to be added to Bordeaux's lengthy list of absentees following his midweek injury. Striker Cheick Diabaté, who has scored three goals in his last three league appearances, has also returned to the sidelines with a knee injury, leaving Willy Sagnol short.
What’s more, Wahbi Khazri is on his way to Sunderland and will become Bordeaux's second key man, after Henri Saivet, to leave the club this winter. Les Girondins turned down several opportunities to recruit another goalkeeper this week.
So youngster Jérome Prior will start between the sticks on Sunday afternoon despite his recent disappointing performance against Lille.
Bordeaux fielded their best available XI but were trounced 5-1 at Lille in their Coupe de la Ligue semi-final in midweek, their first loss in 11 matches across all competitions. Previously, Sagnol’s side put in an insipid performance against Nantes and needed two late goals to salvage a point.
The hosts have come out on top in 11 of their last 17 when welcoming Ligue 1 opposition and hold a very strong head-to-head record against Rennes (W20-D6-L1) at home, but I’m convinced they’ll be able to keep out the northerners on Sunday.
Rolland Courbis' men pinched maximum points off Gazalec in the dying embers of his debut match on the sidelines and now Les Rouges et Noirs have suffered just four defeats in 22- their best return since 2008/09.
The guests are unbeaten in 10 top-flight games (W5-D5-L0) and managed to score in 11 on the spin – their best scoring run on the road for over 60 years!
The visitors have kept their sheets clean in only three away days so with Bordeaux finding the back of the net in all bar two of their 30 Ligue 1 outings since the start of last season, Both Teams To Score looks the most obvious port of call.
It’s a selection that’s proved profitable in 21/30 (70%) of Les Girondins’ games as hosts as well as 8/11 (73%) of Rennes road trips. With such outstanding stats in our favour, it’s surprising to see 19/20 (William Hill) on offer for a repeat.
St Etienne v PSG | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 2
PSG are out of sight in the Ligue 1 table but they are showing no signs of let up in pursuit of an unbeaten season.
The Parisians scored a collection of Goal of the Season contenders in last weekend’s rout of Angers and were able to rest and rotate for their midweek cup clash with Toulouse. Laurent Blanc’s men remain alive, well and motivated in their bid for four trophies at home and on the continent.
Les Rouges et Bleu’s Ligue 1 form is breaking records every week now. In all competitions, PSG have won 16 of their last 17, they’ve triumphed in 14 of their previous 16 away league games and their 60-point tally after 22 games is the best ever record in France’s top-flight.
The capital club are the only unbeaten side across Europe’s top-five leagues and they’ve not tasted defeat in Ligue 1 in 31 outings (W28-D3-L0) – they can equal Nantes’ 32-match record set in 1995 this Sunday night. Want more? Blanc’s boys have notched 56 goals – their best-ever tally at this stage – and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is averaging a goal every 82 minutes in league football this season.
Sure, the Parisians ambled through their two road trips in 2016, only netting once in both 1-0 victories over amateurs Wasquehal and struggling Toulouse but they’ve shown a capacity to raise their game when it matters most and I expect that to be the case here.
St Etienne rarely lose by large margins but PSG are on another level to Les Verts and should win comfortably. The -1 Asian Handicap is available at 39/40 (Bet365) and that appeals with Christophe Galtier’s troops unable to get over the line in recent weeks.
This selection sees our stake returned should the visitors win by a solitary goal with a victory by two or more goals banking us a winning selection. The only other way in which we won’t make money is if St Etienne avoid defeat.
Alexander Soderlund’s made a solid impact since signing but costly injuries to centre-back Loic Perrin and attacking fulcrum Romain Hamouma have rocked the boat and Sainte have now won just five in 15 (W5-D2-L8) and scored eight in 10 – three of which came against struggling Guingamp.
Last weekend the Champions League-chasing hosts let slip a 1-0 lead against relegation-threatened Reims and similar sloppy errors are likely to be punished. Les Verts have W1-D3-L10 in their last 14 head-to-heads with PSG since 2011/12 and they don’t appear to be in any shape to enhance that record this weekend.
GFC Ajaccio v Montpellier – GFC Ajaccio draw no bet (13/16 Marathon)
Caen v Nice – Both Teams To Score (5/6 Matchbook)
Bordeaux v Rennes – Both Teams To Score (19/20 William Hill)
St Etienne v PSG – PSG -1 Asian Handicap (39/40 Bet365)
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