Dermot is back with another season of French Fancies from Ligue 1. Every week he brings an unrivaled knowledge of French football and shares his best bets and tips here. This time he has a tasty 7/1 treble for matchday two.
As usual, Ligue 1 didn’t stick to the script. After the league sold or lost a lot of firepower (Messi, Openda, Sanchez, Payet, Balogun, Delort) and the likes of Mbappé, Neymar and Terrier injured, the opening week should have seen lots of tight low scoring affairs. It did not. Only two teams failed to score and miraculously top spending PSG were one of them, drawing 0-0 at home to Lorient. The other 8 games scored a combined 32 goals, or averaged 4 per game.
Rennes sit top of the table after the opening weekend and are an outsider to remain there. A lot will depend on whether a couple more defensive reinforcements can be found but ultimately retaining a fit again Jeremy Doku will be key. Bruno Genesio’s dynamic style of play utilises Doku’s speed and dribbling ability to the fullest. If the rumours are true, Manchester City and Chelsea are both coveting the electric Belgian.
Another star has left Ligue 1 and PSG. Neymar has joined Saudi side Al-Hilal. Unfortunately due to only playing 40% of PSG’s games since joining in 2017, this is more of a commercial loss to the club than a playing one at this stage in the Brazilian forwards career. More importantly to the capital giants, Kylian Mbappé has returned to training. After an opening display under Luis Enrique which saw 78% possession and 19 shots on goal without a return, the Spaniards possession based style will heavy rely on the French superstar to unlock Ligue 1 defences. In defence of their performance, 7 new players took to the pitch against Lorient with an entirely new front 3. The new coach’s style will take a bit of time to adjust to.
This week sees an early season clash of the big guns when Lens host Rennes. Lens home form was impeccable last season with a W17-D1-L1 stat line. On the other hand, Rennes are not the greatest of travelers (W6-D5-L8). This is mainly due to Genesio having no plan B, it’s all out attack or nothing. After Lens capitulated at Brest last week (lost 3-2 after being 2-0 up) and Rennes demolition of Metz, this will be an intriguing battle to see whether either team continues the form of this season or last season.
Elsewhere, Marseille play their 4th game in 9 days when they open the weekend at Metz. Marcelino’s side will have to deal with the disappointment of being knocked out of the Champions League. They’ll also need to recover from a grueling period of extra time when the sides meet in Lorraine on Friday evening.
Monaco versus big spending Strasbourg is the pick of the remaining games. Monaco came from a goal down to beat Clermont whilst Strasbourg beat Lyon at home.
After last week where Montpellier conceded in the 91st minute and Lens lost having been 2-0 up, lets hope there’s a little bit less (bad) luck involved in this weeks selections.
Olympique Lyon v Montpellier
Sat 19 Aug 4:00 pm
To borrow a line from a different sport “defences win championships”. With these two teams it can be reworded to “defences lose championships”. Lyon lost to Strasbourg last week despite their opponents only having 2 shots on target. Montpellier was something similar if not so dominant, succumbing to a 91st min equaliser by Ligue 1 newcomers Le Havre. This will be an open, frantic game similar to their final meeting last season which Lyon won 5-4. OL’s home form should be enough to see them win but it’ll be anything but straightforward.
Lyon to win and both teams to score @ 21/10
Stade Reims v Clermont Foot
Sun 20 Aug 2:00 pm
Reims were unlucky to lose to Marseille last week and it bodes well for the rest of the season. Folarin Balogun’s goals will be missed but the squad has more depth than last season. Junya Ito was exceptional last week and should have more joy against what looks like a porous Clermont defence. Les Lanciers were tough to break down last season but conceded 4 to Monaco last week. In that game they were torn asunder on the counter attack and down the flanks, an area where Will Still’s side greatest attacking strength lies.
Reims to win @ 4/5
LOSC Lille v FC Nantes
Sun 20 Aug 12:00 pm
With an extra week of preparation, Paulo Fonseca’s Lille should not look as disjointed as they were at times against Nice last week. It may be a harsh assessment but with a little more familiarity they would have beaten a Les Aiglons side handcuffed by an aging Dante. Nantes were beaten 2-1 by a Toulouse side expected to not have the same quality as last season. That loss pushed Les Canarias formbook to read DLLLWL. That lone ‘W’ kept them in Ligue 1 but it’s hard to imagine where they will pick up enough of them to survive this season.
Lille to win @ 2/5
Lyon to win & BTTS @ 21/20
Reims to win @ 4/5
Lille to win @ 2/5
Above in a treble (best priced) @ 7/1