St Etienne’s revival set to continue
St Etienne vs Nimes (14th v 19th)
Sun, 14:00 GMT
Live on Betfair Live Video
The improvement in St Etienne’s performances in recent weeks culminated in their 2-1 win at Bordeaux on Wednesday night and les Verts are a good bet to collect another three points when they host Nimes this weekend.
A streak of seven straight defeats from September to November saw St Etienne slip down the table but a rash of injuries and suspensions played a key role in their dreadful run of form. Now that under-fire manager Claude Puel is able to select something resembling his first-choice line-up, St Etienne have got better.
Three successive draws – against an excellent Lille (1-1), then Dijon (0-0) and Angers (0-0) – were testament to St Etienne’s defensive improvement. Against Bordeaux they attacked with greater enthusiasm and quality, too, deservedly claiming victory thanks to goals from France U21 winger Arnaud Nordin and Cameroonian midfielder Yann Neyou.
St Etienne may lack an out-and-out goalscorer but options run deep in attack, with eight players (Nordin, Wahbi Khazri, Ryad Boudebouz, Denis Bouanga, Romain Hamouma, Adil Aouchiche, Kevin Monnet-Paquet and Charles Abi) competing for four positions. The recent reintroduction to the squad of Khazri and Boudebouz (pictured below) after the pair remained on the books rather than being sold before the October 5 transfer deadline has proved a real fillip up front.
Nimes are Ligue 1’s weakest side right now and it’s difficult to come up with any logical reason why they should manage to avoid defeat here. They’ve lost seven of their last eight games, were lucky to claim their only victory during that run (1-0 at Reims) and their defence has been particularly dreadful: the Crocodiles have conceded 10 goals in their last four outings and 16 in their last six. Manager Jerome Arpinon is under increasing pressure although the mediocrity of the squad is a bigger problem.
St Etienne are 1.68/13 to win. Given the trajectory they’re on and Nimes’ obvious shortcomings, the hosts are a good pick on the Asian Handicap. With our selection you’ll get your stakes back if St Etienne win by a single goal and earn a profit if St Etienne win by two or more goals. For a full guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.
Paris to meet their match
Lille vs PSG (1st vs 2nd)
Sun, 20:00 GMT
Live on BT Sport 3 and Betfair Live Video
One of the most eagerly-awaited games of the season takes place at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Sunday night as Lille host PSG with Ligue 1 fans desperate to see whether the home side can live up to their billing as potential title rivals to the giants from the French capital.
With nearly 40% of the season gone Lille are one point ahead of Paris in the standings. The relative positions of the two teams are a fair reflection of how the pair have performed, too, as Lille have arguably played the better football of the two during the first four months of 2020-21. Lille have been particularly strong at home, where their record is W6-D2-L0.
The gap between PSG and the chasing pack has closed. That was evident last weekend when Paris were outplayed at home, losing 1-0 to Lyon, a team no better than Lille. PSG were second-best on the night despite Neymar and Kylian Mbappe being on the field. Neymar is an injury doubt ahead of this weekend’s game, and PSG’s chances of making up for last weekend’s setback will be diminished if the Brazil star is unavailable.
Lille may be distracted by the news that broke this week that the club is up for sale. Yet manager Christophe Galtier has engendered such levels of concentration and determination within the squad that the players’ minds are bound to be focused on playing matters.