OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at three big Sunday games.
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 St Etienne (Sun 2pm)
Nice host St Etienne on Sunday afternoon, four days after yet another excellent performance against Monaco in the league. Manager Lucien Favre and his players should have won but conceded a really soft goal right at the end of the game to concede a draw (2-2) on Tuesday evening in Monaco.
The players were really disappointed but it was a good lesson for them, especially the younger ones. Nice are still sixth in the table but slowly closing the gap in Nantes in fifth. Against Monaco, Mario Balotelli showed again why he was such a big player. He scored two which makes it now 12 for the season in the league and he has scored more goals for Nice than for any other club before.
He is working and playing for the team as well as scoring goals and being decisive now. He is in great form and will lead the line once again on Sunday for his team. Unfortunately, Nice lost their left back Le Marchand and other full back Jallet and Souquet are also out.
Defensively, Nice are a bit struggling in terms of personnel. In midfield, Wylan Cyprien is fully fit and played well against Monaco in midweek. He will be a great asset for the second part of the season. Manager Lucien Favre will play in a 4-3-3 formation as usual. Their record at home against St Etienne in the league is good with two wins in their last two encounters and only two losses in the last 10.
The visitors are under huge pressure. They suffered a big setback in midweek with another defeat. They are only 14th, just two points clear of the team in 18th, Troyes. It is very tight at the bottom of the table and every point counts. They need a result on Sunday but the players have lost confidence and despite recruiting players (M’Vila, Ntep), it is a very difficult time for Les Verts at the moment.
There are not defending well enough as we saw at Metz in midweek where they lost 3-0 and they don’t score enough either. I think they will lose again on Sunday.
- Nice 3, St Etienne 0 (19-2, Unibet)
- Plea to score first (7-2, Unibet)
- Nice win both halves (33-10, Unibet)
Monaco v Metz (Sun 4pm)
Monaco, who have now conceded two draws in their last two league matches, host Metz at the Stade Louis II on Sunday afternoon. The French champions rescued a point at the last minute against arch rivals Nice on Tuesday thanks to Radamel Falcao (2-2). But Monaco didn’t play well at all during the game, in difficult conditions and they didn’t deserve a point.
But they showed resilience and a great spirit to come back and draw. That result took them down to fourth place in the table now, two points behind Lyon in second. They have to bounce back on Sunday and get a win against bottom of the table Metz.
Manager Leonardo Jardim has Fabinho back from suspension in midfield while Jemerson is still out injured. Falcao showed once again how important he is for his team and he is expected to start again on Sunday despite not being fully fit. Monaco should again line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation but the league holders have to improve in their build up play.
They have not been good enough since the turn of the year. They can’t afford more slip ups, especially at home because Monaco and Marseille are in great form at the moment and they won’t drop many points. Monaco have a very good record at home against Metz. They beat them 5-0 last season and have only lost once in their last 11 encounters at Louis II.
However, the visitors are in formidable form. They are unbeaten in their last five matches in all competitions and have just won their last two league matches. They are still bottom of the table but are now only six points behind 18th place, the relegation playoff position, and seven off 17th and safety.
The players and the manager Frederic Hantz truly believe they can stay up. They have nothing to lose in this game. No one will ever expect them to get anything so they have no pressure. Their 4-2-3-1 formation has been really efficient and they are defending much better as well lately. Nevertheless, I think Monaco will win. Falcao will score first at 2.90. My best bet is Monaco to win both halves at 2.70.
- Monaco 2, Metz 0 (7-1, Unibet)
- Falcao to score first (19-10, Unibet)
- Monaco win both halves (17-10, Unibet)
Lyon v PSG (Sun 8pm)
This is the big game of the weekend in Ligue 1. PSG, the league leaders, travel to Lyon, second in the table before the start of matchweek 22. Paris are eleven points clear of Lyon and have just destroyed Dijon at home on Wednesday (8-0). The Parisians are in incredible form. They have already scored 106 in 31 games in all competitions this season.
They were incredible in midweek. Neymar scored a quadruple and has 24 goals already for the season. Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé also all scored. Manager Unai Emery will have to pick just three of them and Di Maria should sit on the bench. Emery will field his strongest team, in the usual 4-3-3 formation.
Marquinhos, Layvin Kurzawa and Dani Alves should come back in defence. Thiago Motta is still out in midfield however. The Parisians are very confident going into this game although they know it will be very hard. Their record away at Lyon is solid with only two losses there in their last nine visits. They won there last season but lost two seasons ago.
If Paris SG are well clear at the top of the table, Lyon are in a big battle with Monaco and Marseille to finish second. L’OL are now a point clear of Marseille in third and two of Monaco in fourth. They had a very convincing win in Guingamp (2-0) in midweek. Nabil Fekir scored again, for the fourth game in a row and his 15th league goal of the season.
He is on fire at the moment. Houssem Aouar was also excellent in the Lyon 4-2-3-1 formation. Manager Bruno Genesio played Mariano Diaz from the start and Bertrand Traoré came on as well. So Lyon have all their players available for this game. Their fans will be well up for it and will push the players. I think Lyon will get a point against Paris on Sunday.