Dermot got two wins from three last week in his French Fancies column as PSG drew again and Lyon got hammered at home in Ligue 1. Laurent Blanc’s side have been so bad the coach has called for his own sacking, and Luis Enrique is coming under some early pressure. One manager to hit the ground running has been Austrian tactician Adi Hutter at Monaco. And the complete surprise package are Éric Roy’s Brest. See below for Dermot’s thoughts on all Week 2 action plus his Smart Bet selections.
Nantes v Monaco
Fri 25 Aug 20:00
After only 2 games it looks like Nantes will do well to not be in the Ligue 1 relegation spots after another 10 games (as tipped antepost). Until they play Metz in Week 12, it’s hard to see a “should win” fixture for Les Canaries. They have been comprehensively beaten by Toulouse and a 10-man Lille in their opening two games. Pierre Aristouy seemed a rushed appointment at the end of last season along with his “thank you” contract for keeping Nantes up. Unfortunately for the home side, he looks out of his depth with a squad short of quality beyond the starting eleven.
Monaco’s opening games have unlocked the attacking potential not seen under the overly cautious styles of Niko Kovac and Philippe Clement. Having sold over €170m of defensive talent versus €36.2m of attackers in the past two seasons, the ASM forward unit has plenty of experience playing together. The surprise so far though has been the form of Takumi Minamino. The Japanese’s form at Liverpool was non-existent and even worse in his first season in the French Riviera. This year he is currently 3rd in the Ligue 1 Player Statistics table for average rating over at WhoScored.com. Along with Wissam Ben Yedder and another revitalised player in Aleksandr Golovin, the away side should have too much in front of goal to not win.
Monaco to win @ 5/6
Marseille v Brest
Sat 26 Aug 16:00
After a frantic spell of 4 games in 9 days, Marseille and manager Marcelino will have had a week-long break before the arrival of Brest to the Vélodrome. It’s been a mixed bag in the Spaniard’s first four competitive games in charge. They were knocked out of the Champions League on penalties by Panathinaikos, beat Reims at home and then salvaged a come-from-behind draw at 10-man Metz in Ligue 1. Between an unlucky deflection for the first goal and poor goalkeeping for the second, the bare stats probably make things look worse than they were. OM will be without new signing Geoffrey Kondogbia. It will be interesting to see who is paired in Marcelino’s double pivot, the likelihood is it being Veretour and Rongier.
Brest surprisingly sit 2nd in the table after wins over Lens and Le Havre. Romain Del Castillo is like a man unshackled after the departure of Franck Honorat, starting the season with 3 goals and an assist. The form of the away side is hard to gauge though. Lens gifted them two penalties (and an extra man) whilst Le Havre defense was poor for both goals. They do seem to excel on the counter-attack so perhaps Marseille will have to wait another day for a clean sheet whilst ultimately winning the game.
Home win & BTTS is 9/4
PSG v Lens
Sat 26 Aug 20:00
There’s no doubt this is the clash of the weekend. Last season’s champions versus the team that finished a point behind them. The Parisians have had a complete overhaul in the summer whereas Lens have sold their two best players in Seko Fofana and Lois Openda. To offset Openda’s goals, Elye Wahi joins from Montpellier in what looks like a shrewd bit of business. The French U21 international has all the attributes to be a top player – quick, aggressive (8 yellow cards last season), agile, strong plus a huge work rate all combined with a fair bit of technical and goalscoring ability.
Luis Enrique’s side have only managed 1 goal (a spot kick from Mbappé) in their opening Ligue 1 games despite having an average 78% possession. Lorient and Toulouse sat back and soaked up all the short passing PSG could throw at them. Franck Haise’s side have not started fantastically (a collapse against Brest followed by clinging on at home to Rennes) but will be far above the level of opposition the home side has faced so far. If Wahi plays in this game, the almost 9/2 on an away win is a tempting price.
Rennes v Le Havre
Sun 27 Aug 12:00
The man who has helped fuel Bruno Genesio’s attacking strategy will almost certainly be at a different club when Jeremy Doku’s move to Manchester City for €68m is completed later in the week. He’s one of the few players outside of PSG that could transition from Ligue 1 to the EPL relatively easily. With that in mind, I think I’ll sit this game out from a punting point of view even though I expect the home side to win 1-0 or 2-0.
Strasbourg v Toulouse
Sun 27 Aug 14:00
Strasbourg followed up their opening day Ligue 1 win over Lyon with a sobering loss in Monaco. Given how OL played since, that form may not amount to much. Even after spending big on young talent in the summer, Le Racing will probably need another few weeks for things to settle down. Troyes thought the same last season and got relegated. They are a hard side to gauge as either a lower to mid-table finish or a run at a European spot wouldn’t be a surprise.
Toulouse will be delighted with their start. A win in Nantes followed up by grinding out a point against a toothless PSG. The side seems to have more unity after the departure of Branco van den Boomen. Players are now taking on responsibility themselves rather than waiting for the Dutchman to do something in a game. After scoring in his opening two games, it’s surprising to see Zakaria Aboukhlal still 3/1 to score anytime with some firms (especially as he is the nominated penalty taker). As for the overall outcome, I’d lean to the away side but it’s not a game I’d bet either side to win.
Clermont Foot v Metz
Sun 27 Aug 14:00
Clermont are bottom of Ligue 1 after the first couple of weekends and it’s pretty much all down to their inability to defend the counterattack. Five of their six goals conceded have been on the break. Pascal Gastien’s side will have to address that soon to stop Clermont from being pulled into a relegation fight after an 8th-placed finish last year. Metz will be happy with a point from games against Rennes and Marseille, even if the former beat them 5-1 on the opening day. This game is the start of a run of five where Laszlo Boloni will be targeting the accrual of points (Clermont (A), Reims (H), Lens (A), Strasbourg (H) and Toulouse (A)). Les Grenats are still something of an unknown quantity but do have a serious talent in Georgian forward Georges Mikautadze. From a betting perspective, this game screams over 2.5 goals (4/5).
Over 2.5 goals combined @ 5/6
Montpellier v Reims
Sun 27 Aug 14:00
A clash of two progressive teams should be entertaining to say the least. Junya Ito of Reims has been one of the best players in Ligue 1 whilst Montpellier are their usual chaotic selves. La Paillade have found a more than adequate replacement for Elye Wahi in Akor Adams. The Nigerian forward has scored 3 in 2 games so far and looks like he will thrive in Michel Der Zakarian’s side. Another player of note is Jordanian international Mousa Al-Tamari. His brace at Lyon showed plenty of pace, technical ability and self confidence. He could be a real find.
Reims were unlucky to lose to Marseille in their first game but possibly lucky to win against Clermont. The home side will struggle all season to keep clean sheets but have enough firepower to attempt to outscore any team in the division. A home win & BTTS (100/30) is the obvious place to start but after a 91st-minute concession against new boys Le Havre, the cautious approach may be BTTS & Over 2.5 goals (20/21).
Lorient v Lille
Sun 27 Aug 16:05
Tipping a team that has a combined 2 shots on target in their opening two games seems a bit of a folly but this is situational betting at its finest. Lorient are 3/1 to win the game given Lille have dominated their opening fixtures against Nice and Nantes. The away side’s problem for this game is the lack of central defenders. As it stands, 17yr old Leny Yoro will be paired with Samuel Umtiti. The latter found some game time last year at Lecce in Serie A after 4 injury-ravaged seasons at Barcelona in La Liga. It will be interesting to see if he’s up to being a decent Ligue 1 level player.
Lorient manager Régis Le Bris is astute enough to know that if his side are to take advantage of this pairing they’ll need to play closer to the goal than they did against PSG and Nice. Bamba Dieng excels being in around the box rather than playing down the channels or off the shoulder of the last man. How Paulo Fonseca approaches the game will be just as fascinating. His side can be a match for anyone in the league but seem to lose key battles in a lot of games. The safe bet here is under 2.5 goals (11/10) but those with a preference for high variance should opt for a home win (3/1).
Nice v Lyon
Sun 27 Aug 19:45
No team has cost me more money betting in Ligue 1 than Nice. Over the past 3 seasons, they are the ultimate “on paper” team that’s not matched the reality. They’ve started with a pair of 1-1 draws to Lille and on the road at Lorient. Their Achilles Heel is undoubtedly 40yr old centre-back Dante. He was at fault for the Lille goal on the opening day. Even with a 5-yard head start he ended up 10 yards behind Sirine Doucoure in a couple of strides at Lorient.
Lyon’s problem with taking advantage of Dante is the suspension of Alexander Lacazette. The French forward’s backups are nowhere close to the same level. Amine Sarr hasn’t worked out and Tino Kadewere has publicly spoken about a move away (whilst being also out of form with only 2 goals in 2 seasons). None of this was helped by Laurent Blanc effectively throwing in the towel last week and it’s a big surprise to see him in the dugout this week. The home side still have enough in attack with Moffi, Laborde, Diop, Boga and Guessand to outscore whatever Blanc’s side can come up with (and hopefully make up for Dante’s deficiencies).
Nice to win @ 23/20
Nantes v Monaco – Monaco To Win @ 5/6
Clermont v Metz: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/6
Nice v Lyon – Nice To Win @ 23/20
Above in a treble (best priced) @ 6/1