OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and on Sunday he's looking at Marseille v PSG, Troyes v Lyon and Nice v Strasbourg.
Julien is a London-based sports correspondent for Le Parisien and a veritable French football expert. He writes in French and English for a number of esteemed publications and is a regular on BT Sport as well as contributing to Unibet.
Marseille v PSG (Sun, 8pm)
This is the big game of the weekend in Ligue 1 and one of the biggest in the French season. The leaders PSG travel to their arch rivals Marseille on Sunday evening. The atmosphere will be exceptional at the Stade Vélodrome and it should be a fascinating contest between the two enemies.
Paris are flying. They are still unbeaten in all competitions this season with eight wins and a draw in Ligue 1 and three victories in the Champions League. They are scoring for fun with Edinson Cavani already on 12 goals in 12 games this season while Neymar has nine in 10. The other member of the front three, Kylian Mbappé, is also in incredible form. It will be a huge task for Marseille to stop them.
Only Montpellier have managed to keep a clean sheet against PSG this season but Neymar didn’t play that day. Thiago Silva is still doubtful but Unai Emery could keep the same starting XI in a 4-3-3 formation as against Anderlecht in midweek (4-0).
Unless Julian Draxler or Javier Pastore comes in to play in the No.10 role behind the front three.
PSG have an incredible record against Marseille in recent years. They haven’t lost in Marseille since 2011 and have won their last 10 encounters against them.
For the home side this is a huge game. Their season has had ups and downs. They only drew at Strasbourg last weekend (3-3) but bounced back in the Europa League on Thursday against Guimaraes.
Rudi Garcia has all his squad available. Luis Gustavo is back from injury and will put a lot of intensity and physicality in midfield. Dimitri Payet was rested in midweek, like striker Kostas Mitroglou, but both will be key players for Marseille on Sunday.
I think it will be a very competitive match and I can see Marseille give PSG a great game but the leaders just edging it.
- Marseille 1, PSG 3 (9-1, Unibet)
- Cavani to score first (11-4, Unibet)
- PSG to win both halves (4-5, Unibet)
Troyes v Lyon (Sun, 4pm)
Lyon travel to Troyes on Sunday and will try to keep their winning run going. They are currently sixth in the table, just three points off the second place and have now beaten Monaco (3-2) and Everton (2-1) in their last two outings. Bruno Genesio was under pressure before but his team is doing really well at the moment.
Defensively, they can still be a bit shaky at times but they are so good going forward, especially with the form Nabil Fekir is in. However, the Lyon captain is a doubt for Sunday after picking up a knock against Everton. The team would be really weakened if he could not play. He has scored seven goals and given three assists in his nine league matches so far.
Without their captain, Lyon will rely on Mariano Diaz, their striker, who missed the trip to Everton due to injury but should be back for this game. He was outstanding against Monaco and already has seven league goals under his belt. He is a very powerful player. Defensively, however, Lyon are not as strong. They can’t keep a clean sheet.
Tanguy Ndombélé should come back into the team after staying on the bench in midweek but Houssem Aouar, 19, impressed in the last two games as well. Lyon have a good record away at Troyes with four wins in their last six visits (one draw and one loss).
Newly promoted Troyes have started well the season. They are currently 12th in the table with three wins, three draws and three losses. They are a team that doesn’t give up and keep fighting until the end. They are hard to beat and will give Lyon a good game. However, even if Fekir doesn’t play, I feel Lyon will win this game quite comfortably. I think Mariano Diaz will score first at 4.60. My best bet is Lyon to win without conceding a goal at 3.30.
- Troyes 0, Lyon 2 (17-2, Unibet)
- Diaz to score first (7-2, Unibet)
- Lyon to win to nil (23-10, Unibet)
Nice v Strasbourg (Sun, 2pm)
Lucien Favre and his team are going through a really tough time. They lost last weekend at Montpellier and in midweek at home against Lazio as well in the Europa League. Nice are only 14th in the table with only 10 points. It is a mini crisis the club is going through and they need a win against newly promoted Strasbourg on Sunday.
They defended poorly again in those last two matches, especially against Lazio who punished them. The only positive was Mario Balotelli was excellent. He scored his seventh goal in his last eight matches in all competitions. Wesley Sneijder also started and had a good performance, linking up a lot with Balotelli who was also his teammate when they were both at Milan seven years ago.
Favre decided to play with a back three in midweek which didn’t solve Nice’s defensive problems. But he could do the same on Sunday. Jean Michael Seri, Nice’s best midfielder, is out which is a big blow.
Sneijder could start again as well then. Nice and Strasbourg have never faced each other in the league before but Nice are not so solid at home like they were last season.
Strasbourg almost beat Marseille at home last weekend (3-3) after a fantastic performance. They will go again this weekend at Nice. They are a very intense team, attacking and too exposed defensively. But they always give everything and they could well catch Nice on the counter.
However, I think Nice will get back to winning ways and will be too strong for Strasbourg. Mario Balotelli will score first at 3.90. My best bet us Nice to win both halves at 4.30.