NEWLY-PROMOTED Lens travel to Nice on Sunday for their first Ligue 1 clash of the season. Marcus Ally (@Marcus_Ally_4) oversees the encounter.
Nice vs Lens | Sunday 23rd August 2020, 16:00 | BT Sport
Lens begin their return to the French top-flight with a difficult trip to the Allianz Riviera to face a Nice side who booked their spot in the Europa League group stage with a fifth-place finish last term.
It must be said that Lens were definitely one of the winners of the halting of the Ligue 2 season in April, achieving automatic promotion as a result of having been only one point ahead of Ajaccio in third.
Coincidentally Nice also had a leg up from the season’s suspension as despite being in fifth, they were just one point above seventh placed Lyon with 10 games remaining. If Rudi Garcia’s men finished the campaign in any fashion close to what they have shown in the Champions League in recent weeks you would have backed them to scrape into the top six.
The Eagles performances in both boxes were of stark contrast to each other, creating the fourth most expected goals in the division, yet were so leaky at the back they conceded the third most xG and slumped to a 13th place finish in the xG table according to Understat.
Nice have looked to address those frailties in signing three defenders for a combined sum of over £15m. Starting with the priciest, Robson Bambu has come in from Athletico-PR for £7.2m to sure up the heart of the backline. The 22-year-old has played for Brazil up to U23’s and in a league filled to the brim with young talent Bambu will hope to have a positive influence on the side’s solidarity.
Full-backs Hassane Kamara and Jordan Lotomba were recruited from Reims and Young Boys. Kamara has honed his skillset spending the last two of his five-year spell with Reims in Ligue 1 helping steer the club to impressive eight and sixth place finishes, defeating title winners Paris Saint-Germain in each of those campaigns.
A substantial amount of the spotlight for this fixture will be on Ignatius Ganago who joined the visitors from Nice this summer for £5.4m. Franck Haise will be hoping he can be clinical enough to fire in enough goals to see the 1997/98 Ligue 1 champions maintain their top-flight status this term.
One player to escape the drop to Ligue 2 is Issiaga Sylla, the left back has joined Reims on loan from last season’s rock bottom finishers Toulouse.
The betting angles
The first matchday of the season can be notoriously unpredictable therefore any correct score or specific markets may be ill advised. Last time Lens were in the top-flight they took three points off Nice at home, losing 2-1 at the Allianz Riviera in May 2015 as they finished 20th compared to Nice’s 11th.
Having been so productive in front of goal last term and adding some talent in key areas, the Eagles are favourites for this encounter but still good value at around even money. Promotion came with an element of luck for Lens and if you fancy them to carry on that momentum against the side who conceded the third most xG in 2019/20, then both teams to score could be a good punt at 19/20 best price with bet365.
There is value in backing Nice and feeling positive at the start of the campaign, use the -1 handicap to be sure of your stake back should they only get over the line by a goal.
Nice v Lens – Nice -1 Asian Handicap (21/10 VBet)
Nice v Lens – Both Teams to Score (19/20 Bet365)