Ligue 1: Week 27 – Previews and Predictions
After a week in which Ligue 1’s footballers have shown some spectacularly bad judgement on social media (Aurier), on the road (Ongenda) and at the barber’s (Alessandrini) it’s a relief to see them back to what they do best. The weekend opens with Bordeaux looking to avenge their 6-1 defeat to Nice earlier in the season and we also have yet another Breton derby. But we preview a bottom of the table clash, a European match, and a tie between two fallen giants who are looking in opposite directions right now.
Toulouse FC v GFC Ajaccio: Saturday 19.00 – @jeremysmith98
Two of the bottom three meet in the ville rose on Saturday evening in a match which could have a major bearing on which division they are playing in next season.
Home side Toulouse are currently second-bottom, eight adrift of safety and six behind opponents Gazelec Ajaccio. A defeat in this match could spell the end of their already slim chances of survival. Dominique Arribagé’s men come into the match off the back of some poor form results-wise, having failed to win any of their last eight matches in all competitions. However, three of those matches were hard-fought defeats to PSG, another was an unlucky loss to third-place Nice and only in the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of second-place Monaco did the team really look out of their depth. They arguably had the better of last week’s 2-0 defeat at Montpellier too.
But the bottom line is that they are not converting promising performances into points and losing to relegation rivals, however valiantly, leaves them in a precarious position.
Saturday evening is a great opportunity to gain a valuable victory, however, against a Gazelec team whose season thus far can be easily split into three distinct parts. They opened their inaugural Ligue 1 campaign with 10 matches without a win; then followed that up with 11 matches without defeat. However, their last victory was their final match of 2015 and (although progressing to the Coupe de France quarter-finals) they are now winless in seven in the league, with only one point in their last five matches.
Last week Thierry Laurey’s men suffered the ignominy of handing coach-less Troyes only their second win of the season, with even the usually reliable goalkeeper Clément Maury at fault for l’ESTAC’s opener. The Corsican ship needs to be steadied fast if the team are to retain their Ligue 1 status, and a win against Toulouse would have the double effect of improving their position while effectively cutting their hosts off and leaving only one relegation spot available.
The first match between these two ended 2-2. This one is unlikely to be as open, with neither team able to afford a defeat. Expect a tight, nervy affair which, sadly, may be decided by an error or a lack of discipline on one side or the other.
Olympique de Marseille v AS Saint-Etienne: Sunday 13.00 – @Philby1976
After mixed fortunes on Thursday night, Ligue 1’s two Europa teams face off in very different contexts. ASSE are fourth on 40 points, only behind Nice on goal difference, and take a one-goal lead to Basel next Thursday; Marseille are 11th on 35, haven’t won at home in the league since September, and lost 1-0 at the Velodrome against Athletic Bilbao to set up a tricky away trip to try to stay in the Europa League.
Les Verts’ recent away form has been good, beating Rennes 1-0 and Bordeaux 4-1, before drawing at home to Monaco in the last round, and they will be looking to consolidate their run for a podium finish. Their scoring form has also improved, with new signing Oussama Tannane fitting right in on the wing, and the welcome return of Romain Hamouma midweek after six weeks out with a calf injury. With towering defender Mustapha Bayal Sall now on five goals for the season in all competitions, they look a tough opponent for OM to try – again – to fix their home form.
Marseille have six points from their last five games, their only win away at Montpellier; despite a good showing against PSG they lost 2-1, and, simply, are drawing too much. Michel started Steven Fletcher against Athletic Club, as Michy Batshuayi looks progressively more tired / out-of-sorts / frustrated, but even in the absence of Remy Cabella (suspended) he only brought Florian Thauvin on at the hour-mark as OM went 4-4-2 to try to recover after Aritz Aduriz’ wonder-goal put the visitors ahead.
If Marseille don’t score early – or, worse, if Saint-Etienne do – expect the atmosphere to become rather problematic. Both teams are late-bloomers compared to the overall figures, scoring two-thirds of their goals in the second half. Also, the knowledge that ASSE will be looking at this as a decent chance of away points may not help, however much the fans must realise that this is a reasonable viewpoint considering.
Lille OSC v Olympique Lyonnais: Sunday 20:00 – @Gibney_A
It feels like a long time ago now that Lille were readily accepted as one of France’s biggest draws. It was only four years ago, but Sunday’s position in the headline timeslot gives Frederic Antonetti’s side a chance to shine on the big stage once again.
Les Dogues welcome Olympique Lyonnais to the Stade Pierre Mauroy, with the away team the main draw for the TV fixture. Take away their 3-0 defeat to PSG in the Coupe de France and Bruno Genesio’s team are in good goal-scoring form. Two 3-0 wins over Bordeaux and Angers were followed up with a 4-1 victory over Caen. The away side didn’t play badly, but Lyon were clinical and continue their strong home form.
Lille will find hope in OL’s away form, only three wins in 2016, with two of them coming against lower league sides in the Coupe de France. The Angers result was their first away victory in Ligue 1 this year.
LOSC’s embarrassing defeat to Troyes at the end of January is their only home loss in the last 10 games. Antonetti’s side have only conceded eight goals in that time, three coming against Ligue 1’s bottom club.
Vincent Enyeama is set to play his 100th league game for the northerners and he will need to be at his sensational best if Lille want to repeat last season’s shock victory. Former Lyon man, Yassine Benzia, now claims he is 100% fit and raring to show the Lille fans what he is fully capable of.
Lyon have been handed a blow with the loss of Corentin Tolisso due to injury; the midfielder had been playing very well after a poor start to the season. Jordan Ferri, Sergi Darder or Clement Grenier will have to step up in his absence. OL should still have too much though and expect them to turn their away form around with a narrow victory on Sunday night.