PSG Monaco Cavani 50kb

Mark O’Haire’s European Footy Tips – Ligue 1 Week 4

Ligue 1 moves into its fourth week this weekend, with Paris Saint-Germain’s visit to Monaco on Sunday night the pick of the ties.

Guingamp v Marseille, Friday 28 August (19.30), BT Sport/ESPN
Marseille began life under Michel in spectacular fashion last Sunday, smashing Troyes 6-0 at the Stade Velodrome. L’OM justified our faith by tearing into the newly-promoted side after half-time, notching five goals following the interval including a spectacular strike from former Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Lass Diarra.

The turbulent reign of Marcelo Bielsa has quickly been swept under the carpet with a wave of optimism returning to Les Phocéens supporters. Michel has opted to rigidly stick to his predecessors 4-2-3-1 formation and has spoken about his desire to continue the trend for aggressive pressing and attacking football on the Côte d’Azur.

And despite failing to score in their opening two fixtures, Marseille have been creating bucket-loads of opportunities. L’OM have fired in more on-target attempts than any other Ligue 1 side and the visitors look handy even-money shots to return back-to-back victories on Friday as they travel to Guingamp.

Under Bielsa, Les Phocéens were ruthless against the lesser lights of the league and with their hosts sill struggling to come to the terms with the loss of last season’s two top goalscorers Claudio Beauvue and Christophe Mandanne this summer, Marseille should smell blood. The visitors returned W18-D4-L4 when taking on teams in eighth and below and that included W8-D3-L2 on the road.

L’OM plundered two goals or more in 20 of those 26 outings (8/13 away) and should prove too strong for Jocelyn Gourvennec’s charges.

The hosts have lost all three 2015/16 fixtures without scoring and were beaten in 13/18 matches against top-nine opposition during their outstanding campaign that saw EAG finish 10th. Guingamp kept clean sheets in only two of those games and Gourvennec’s men lost 15 of the 18 encounters when conceding.

Lille v GFC Ajaccio, Saturday 29 August (19.00), BT Sport 1
Three weeks into the new Ligue 1 season and France’s reputation as being a low-scoring league couldn’t be more evident on early showings. A huge 70% of matches have failed to break the Over 2.5 Goals line with games averaging just 1.83 goals-per-game.

Lille are another side that’s struggled in front of goal but with double African Cup of Nations winning coach Herve Renard in the dugout, Les Dogues fans are confident and expectant that progress isn’t far away for the north-eastern city. A few seasons of stagnation plus the loss of their solid spine in the summer hasn’t helped but nor has a rough fixture list that’s seen Lille meet PSG, Monaco and Bordeaux in their first three games.

However, despite the wholesale turnover in playing personnel at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Renard has seen his new team compete excellently across all three outings. Sure, Les Dogues are yet to score but the tide should turn soon with
Sofiane Boufal the key architect starting to get his grip on proceedings.

Tiny GFC Ajaccio are Lille’s opponents on Saturday and the side with the smallest budget in the league have also failed to find the net thus far. Thierry Laurey’s troops were well beaten by fellow newly-promoted side Angers last weekend whilst a 2-0 loss at PSG and 0-0 draw with Troyes on the opening week flattered.

Lille have a fantastic chance to end their winless run under Renard on Saturday night and should they do so, it’s likely they’ll keep Gazalec scoreless.

The home win ‘to nil’ can be backed at 21/20 and holds most appeal with Les Dogues keeping their sheets clean in 24/39 (61%) of Stade Pierre-Mauroy outings since the start of 2013/14.

Monaco v PSG, Sunday 30 August (20.00), BT Sport Europe
There’s no doubt that Monaco’s meeting with PSG tops the bill in France this weekend. The two cash rich clubs lock horns knowing defeat for either side has the potential to have a big say in the destination of the 2015/16 title, even at this early stage.

The hosts were on their knees in midweek as they failed to overcome a 3-1 first leg deficit in the Champions League against Valencia despite winning the return leg 2-1. Leonardo Jardim’s men have struggled defensively this campaign following Aymen Abdennour’s decision to try and find a new club – Les Rouges et Blancs have kept just two clean sheets in their seven appearances this term.

It’s a worrying trend for the principality club who prided themselves on an organised and superbly structured backline last season. True, Jardim has been hoping to oversee a more offensive approach and Monaco have netted in six of those seven fixtures but there’s no sign yet that Les Rouges et Blancs can repeat their 2014/15 defensive heroics this time around.

PSG are yet to get out of second gear but already sit proudly on top of the table. The capital club have brushed aside Lille, Gazalec and Montpellier with relative ease but Laurent Blanc’s men have looked a little unconvincing when all three managed to put pressure on the Parisians.

Thiago Silva certainly isn’t the same player that skippered Milan with such enthusiasm and professionalism whilst David Luiz remains an accident waiting to happen.

I do expect PSG to grab a goal but I’m far from confident in Blanc’s men shutting out Monaco on Sunday night.

With that in mind, Both Teams To Score is a sensible option at 23/20 with the 1-1 correct score also holding appeal at 11/2 – Arsenal are the only side to beat the hosts on home soil since September 2014.

*Prices correct at time of publication.