MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) talks us through his favourite French fancies from Ligue 1 this weekend.
Caen v Guingamp | Saturday 19.00
Back-to-back defeats have seen surprise package Caen drop off the early pace in Ligue 1 but Patrice Garande's men still sit in a lofty fifth-placed position coming into the weekend and only a point behind second-placed Lyon.
SMC are the only team in France yet to draw a match (W7-D0-L5) and have continued where they left off in 2014/15. Garande's switch to a more offensive approach over the winter break 11 months ago saved their status and their all-action performances this calendar year have lit up the league.
Since January, Caen have W16-D4-L10 in league football and that includes W10-D1-L5. More recently, Saturday night’s hosts have W6-D0-L2 at their Stade Michel d'Ornano home whilst only Lyon and PSG have had more shots-on-target when hosting Ligue 1 action this season.
Guingamp have been held in their last three matches and will have been disappointed to throw away a victory against Lorient last time out. Jimmy Briand scored the club’s fastest goal in history in Ligue 1 (19 seconds) but EAG’s 2-1 advantage was eventually evened out in stoppage-time.
Central midfielder Younousse Sankhare is suspended following sending off in that derby clash and although PSG are the only side to beat the visitors in the past two months, Guingamp’s best run since January (W1-D4-L0) hasn’t exactly thrilled.
EAG have failed to net in four of their six on the road (W2-D1-L3) and with Caen keeping their guests scoreless in three of their first six, I reckon there’s a bit of value in the 6/5 from Bet365 that the hosts return to winning ways.
Marseille v Nice | Sunday 16.00
I’m well aware this is getting slightly dull and tedious but you know what’s coming next. Both Teams To Score banked in midweek as Nice were beaten at home by Nantes and it’s a runner again on Sunday with 10Bet quoting odds of 10/13 for a repeat.
Claude Puel’s young squad are showing signs of tiredness but they will benefit from the return from suspension of Maxime Le Marchand and Vincent Koziello this weekend. Meanwhile, Hatem Ben Arfa returns to the Stade Velodrome – a ground where he won the title in 2010 – and fresh from a recall to the national team for the first time since 2012.
Getting to the nitty gritty, then. Les Rouge et Noir have won three of their last four derby dates with Marseille and have already plundered 26 goals across their 12 games – that’s the joint-most in the league alongside runaway leaders PSG. All bar two of the visitors’ matches have featured Both Teams To Score winners.
A huge 11 of Nice’s last 13 on the road have featured at least three goals whilst eight of their previous nine victories on their travels have also seen Puel’s side fail to record a clean sheet. Since the start of last season, Les Aiglons 15/25 (60%) away days have seen BTTS win with only five shutouts to their name whilst a whopping 19 of their last 24 have produced successful Over 2.5 Goals selections.
Nice’s task has been made a little easier thanks to the suspensions of Marseille’s stalwart centre-half Nicolas N’Koulou, midfield shield Lassana Diarra, Remy Cabella and injured without winger Romain Alessandrini.
Michel’s men have recorded three wins on the spin for the first time under the Portuguese head coach and victory this weekend could send the side into the top-half of the table for the first time this campaign. However, the hosts boast just a solitary shutout in nine and have only W4-D4-L5 in their past 13 at the Velodrome.
Marseille have managed to score in their previous eight whilst nine of those aforementioned 13 home fixtures have featured Over 2.5 Goals winners. The BTTS bet has already won in seven of their 12 Ligue 1 outings this term, as well as 15/25 (60%) in front of their home fans since the start of 2014/15.
Lyon v St Etienne | Sunday 20.00 | BT Sport 2
It’s derby weekend across Europe and Ligue 1 wraps up on Sunday night with an intriguing contest between rivals Lyon and St Etienne. It’ll be the final showdown between the two at the Stade Gerland in what’s expected to be a keenly contested and emotional encounter.
Lyon have W16-D5-L2 in their past 23 home Ligue 1 fixtures but delve a little deeper and Hubert Fournier’s men have managed a below-par W1-D4-L2 in their past seven as league hosts. In midweek Les Gones were well beaten by Zenit on their own patch, as good as ending their knockout Champions League hopes, and their W3-D2-L3 in all competitions at the Gerland is far from fearsome.
Only terrible travellers Toulouse, Reims and Bastia have been beaten and so whilst Fournier’s charges have been one of the most dominant in the shot counts, they’re still struggling to come to terms with the long-term injury to Nabil Fekir as well as loss of form of Alexandre Lacazette.
Gueida Fofana, Aldo Kalulu and Clement Grenier are also sidelined but Samuel Umtiti should return to centre-half alongside calamity Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Surprisingly, Lyon have kept more clean sheets (8) than any other top European club this term but they’ve yet to completely convince and I certainly wouldn’t count on them keeping their sheets clean on Sunday.
St Etienne make the short journey to a venue where they’ve not lost at since 2007/08. The visitors may have lost six of their previous 10 at top-six rivals but Les Verts remain a difficult team to budge. Christophe Galtier’s travellers have done the double over Dnipro in the past fortnight and on the road have W5-D1-L4 this season.
Aside from their hefty 4-1 loss at PSG, Saint have won four competitive matches without conceding in the last month and have suffered just three away Ligue 1 losses since the start of last season when scoring. Les Verts have been beaten by two goals or more just twice in that spell and so should be well capable of taking a point off their old foes in the evening kick-off.
Caen v Guingamp – Caen to win (6/5 Bet365)
Marseille v Nice – Both Teams To Score (10/13 10Bet)
Lyon v St Etienne – St Etienne +0.50 Asian Handicap (39/40 Bet365)
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