OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at Nice v Bordeaux and Lyon v Marseille.
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.
Nice v Bordeaux (Sun 4pm)
The home side are on their way to recovery after a very bad start of the season. They are in the bottom three at some point earlier in the season but are now eighth in the table, twelve points behind the top four.
But at least the momentum and the confidence is back in the squad after three league wins in a row for the first time this season. Manager Lucien Favre and his players have clearly turned a corner and need to confirm it on Sunday against strugglers Bordeaux.
Nice also won in midweek in the league cup. Danté, who missed the win at Nantes last weekend in the league, is back from suspension while Jallet and Sneijder are still out injured. Nice should start in a 4-3-3 formation on Sunday with Mario Balotelli up front as the centre forward and Plea and Allan Saint-Maximin on each wing.
Balotelli has been great for Nice this season, carrying the team by himself at times. He has six league goals in nine matches at home this season for example. In goal, despite being excellent in midweek, Cardinale will go back on the bench and Walter Benitez, now the number one, will start.
He has been very good in recent weeks. Nice have beaten Bordeaux in the last two seasons at home, comprehensively as well, but Bordeaux usually do well in the South of France. Nice want to finish the season on a high and this is a great opportunity to do so and confirm their recovery.
For the visitors, it has been a terrible last few weeks. Since being beaten in Paris at the end of September (6-2) when they were third in the table after a near-perfect start of the campaign, Bordeaux have been in crisis. They have lost seven, drew two and won only once in their last ten matches in all competitions.
They were beaten again in midweek, in the derby at Toulouse in the league cup. Manager Jocelyn Gourvennec is still in charge but the pressure is huge and the fans want him to resign. The players have lost all confidence and have been hit by injuries as well. Their best player, Malcom, missed the last two games but should be back on Sunday.
Alexandre Mendy is injured and is out while Maxime Poundjé is a big doubt too. Gourvennec could decide to keep number 2 Jerome Prior in goal for this game and drop Benoit Costil the usual number one. The manager is looking for options to stop the terrible run his team is on and save his job as well. However, I think Nice will beat Bordeaux on Sunday.
Lyon v Marseille (Sun 8pm)
This is the big game of the weekend in France. This is the Olympico between l’Olympique Lyonnais and l’Olympique de Marseille. It is second against fourth but level on points at the heart of the battle for second place.
Both teams are in good form coming into this game. Lyon have only lost one of their last 11 league matches, it was at home against Lille three weeks where nothing went l’OL’s way. Marseille have not lost in the league since early September and 12 matches now! However, they both lost with B teams in midweek in the league cup, Lyon at Montpellier (4-1) and Marseille at Rennes (on penalties) but that would not have affected their confidence and momentum.
Lyon are without Bertrand Traoré who is still injured so Maxwell Cornet should replace him once again despite his difficult relationship with the Lyon fans. The question for manager Bruno Genesio is what to do in midfield with three players (Aouar, Tousart and Ndombele) for two places. Deeply, Fekir and Mariano Diaz, who have all three been excellent in recent weeks, will start whatever the manager decides eventually. Lyon could play in a 4-3-3 formation or in their usual 4-2-3-1. A 4-4-2 could also be an option.
Despite their great current form. Lyon haven’t always been great at home this season. They only have the eight best record so far this season. However, their top flight home record against Marseille is outstanding. They have not been beaten by them in Lyon since 2007, losing only six of their 47 encounters at home.
But Marseille won’t fear their trip to Lyon at all. They were beaten there 3-1 last season but they have also put on good performances there in the past. Manager Rudi Garcia is very positive about this trip. Tactically, he thinks Marseille have a great chance to get some points in Lyon. L’OM will play in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Luis Gustavo and Anguissa in midfield.
This is the key of the game. If Marseille can boss the midfield, then they will cause a lot of problems to Lyon. Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin are in great form at the moment, especially Thauvin. Garcia will have to decide who plays up front though: Kostas Mitroglou has been poor in the last few weeks but scored against Rennes in midweek while Valère Germain netted his first two league goals of the season last weekend against St Etienne. He should get the nod.
I think this is going to be a great game and end in a draw.