Ligue 1: Week 16 – Preview + Predictions
Paris Saint-Germain remain top, already crowned Autumn champions – like that is an actual thing! Below the Parisians is where all the action is. Angers were second briefly, until SM Caen beat struggling Bordeaux on Sunday. Nice continued their Jeykll & Hyde impression: reduced to 10-men, they lost to a Toulouse side looking to find a new, younger identity.
Walking through the tunnel at half-time, new Lille boss Frederic Antonetti looked like a man wondering if he had made the right decision. Their 2-0 defeat to Angers saw them fall into the relegation zone, but they are only four points short of Montpellier – who have won three straight. It’s unpredictably brilliant.
FC Nantes v Olympique Lyonnais: Tuesday 20:00 – @Philby1976
After being unceremoniously dumped out of European competition by a 95th-minute scrambled goal, following a 3-0 pasting by Nice that saw one of your defenders get 1/10 from l’Equipe, a home fixture against a team that’s only just pulled itself out of the relegation zone and that you’ve beaten 5-1 in your last two meetings must have had ‘decent chance to bounce back’ written all over it.
Unfortunately for Lyon, it didn’t pan out that way as they lost 4-2 to Montpellier in a match that featured the back four having a collective nightmare. With Samuel Umtiti and Christophe Jallet already injured, and the hapless Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa suspended for two matches, OL now have to deal with goalkeeper Anthony Lopes joining the injury list after colliding with Maxwell Cornet in training on Sunday.
Nantes, meanwhile, were last seen playing out the only goalless game of round 15 as they drew at home to Bastia. Remy Riou rode his luck a little in that but after an injury doubt, he’s available. Alejandro Bedoya is suspended after being sent off late on, and they will also be missing Wilfried Moimbe, Valentin Rongier, Birama Touré and Adrien Thomasson through injury. Yacine Bammou is available, fortunately, as he’s their only player with more than one league goal.
Tenth in the league, les Canaris may smell an opportunity to improve their home form against a limping Lyon – their defences are fairly level overall, so the absences OL-side could give the home side an edge there. However, Nantes really don’t score much, despite Bammou and wingers Jules Iloki and Ermir Lenjani impressing at times, so unless their attack does something very unexpected – or OL are as accommodating as on Friday, which seems unlikely – this could end up being a stalemate.
ES Troyes AC v Toulouse FC: Wednesday 18:00 – @Gibney_A
We are around a third of the way through the Ligue 1 season, and although there is still a very long way to go, Wednesday’s fixture between Troyes and Toulouse is already a huge six-pointer.
The home side sit at the bottom of the table, without a win and ten points from the relative safety of 17th place. Defeat to Le Téféce would see Jean-Marc Furlan’s team slip at best nine points behind even second-bottom, all but cut adrift at the bottom of Ligue 1.
No one expected Troyes to pick up anything away at Paris Saint-Germain – and even in a 4-1 defeat there were reasons to be positive – but their situation was made much worse when Dominique Arribage’s side picked up a shock win over Nice – only their second win of the campaign, and their first since the opening day.
Toulouse had looked awful for a number of weeks. They have shown themselves to have more of an attacking threat than Troyes, but their defence was just as bad. Now, the former TFC defender has turned to youth in an effort to inspire his team up the table.
16-year-old goalkeeper Alban Lafont made his debut and picked up a clean sheet. He was joined by Issa Diop, Yann Bodiger, Zinedine Machach and also Alexis Blin off the bench – all 20 years old or younger. It’s too early to suggest that this is where Toulouse turn their season around, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Furlan has recieved that dreaded vote of confidence from the men upstairs at Troyes, even suggesting they are making plans for the next 18 months. Whether or not 38-year-old Benjamin Nivet is still around at that point remains to be seen, but his creativity, working with young striker Corentin Jean, is where all Troyes’ hopes lie going into the last few fixtures of 2015.
ESTAC have been unfortunate at times, losing by the odd goal in close games. Their luck has to turn eventually, and their dire situation means that Wednesday’s fixture is now a must-win for the Champagne side.
Stade Rennais v Olympique de Marseille: Thursday 20:00 – @jeremysmith98
Although the away team, Marseille may well be looking forward to Thursday’s match at Rennes more than their hosts for the evening.
Since winning four of their first five Ligue 1 matches of the season, Rennes have won only one in ten (a 2-0 win at Angers before the latest international break). Their last home victory was way back in August, since when they have failed to win in five at the Roazhon Park, with two defeats, albeit to PSG and a rampant Nice. Such is the inconsistency of the teams around them, Philippe Montanier’s men still sit eighth, only four points behind third (before Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s matches), and so another strong run could see them quickly climb the table.
They come into the match off the back of two 2-2 draws, most recently at 10-man Reims (who had lost their last six). Chelsea loanee Jérémie Boga scored the first, finishing off a brilliant team move which surely only frustrates Rennes fans more, and Kamil Grosicki scored his second in two games to salvage a draw – his first goal of the season that didn’t come from the bench. They could retain their places in a starting line-up shorn of the suspended Giovanni Sio and the perennially injured Paul-Geoges Ntep.
Marseille’s home form is almost as poor as Rennes’, with no Ligue 1 victories since September. However, their form away from the demanding Vélodrome fans is far more impressive, and they come to the Roazhon on the back of three straight wins on the road, most recently 2-0 at Saint-Etienne. The team seems built to impress away, with the speed and verve of the improving Rémy Cabella and in-form Georges-Kévin Nkoudou hurting teams on the break. Nkoudou is arguably Ligue 1’s form player of the last month and may well follow Michy Batshuayi to the monthly award. The two are developing an excellent relationship – and have scored 15 of OM’s last 18 goals in all competitions.
Michel is still struggling to give the team a clear identity, and all results – win, lose or draw – all seem quite sketchy, as the fortunate Saint-Etienne win, and last weekend’s thrilling 3-3 draw against Monaco, testify. But they are becoming harder to beat, and have the incentive of moving into the top half of the table and ahead of Rennes if they win. Michel has a strong squad to choose from; there is a good chance that Karim Rekik will be back on the bench after his showing versus Monaco.
Both teams are a lot more reliable going forward than at the back, and both are predictably unpredictable. So a result is hard to call, but there should be goals.
For this week’s tip we have gone for Guingamp, Montpellier and Marseille to win. OM have a great away record, Rennes are so hit and miss. Guingamp and Montpellier and two of the most improved teams in recent weeks and Reims are in free-fall. Gazelec are on a better run, but expect MHSC to be too good for them.
£5 bet could win you around £44.