OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and today he's looking at Ligue 1 games between Lyon v Toulouse and Nantes v St Etienne.
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.
Lyon v Toulouse (8pm)
Lyon host Toulouse on Sunday evening at the Groupama Stadium. The home side beat Marseille away two weeks ago and came back just two points behind them in fourth place. The battle between l’OL and l’OM to grab the third place will be epic until the end.
Lyon are back at home this weekend after the international break and it is a good opportunity for them to build on the win in Marseille. They want to gain some momentum by putting a good run of results together.
They are still without Nabil Fekir though, their captain and best player. They really have struggled without him. He will be sidelined for the next 10 to 15 days and it is a real blow to be without him.
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Even more because Mariano Diaz is also out suspended – the Spanish striker will be a big miss too. The team has been inconsistent in the last few weeks, capable of big wins in Marseille or CSKA Moscow and of more abject performances.
However, the victory two weeks ago was a big boost for the team and manager Bruno Genesio who is still under huge pressure. The team should line up a in a 4-3-3 formation with Ndombélé, Tousart and Aouar in midfield while the front three should be Depay, Cornet and Traoré.
This is a key game for Lyon this season. They can’t afford not to win it. The pressure is huge but the players have to show that they can cope with it and deliver.
Toulouse have done a bit better since new manager Mickael Debeve took over but it is still not great. The team is still right at the heart of the relegation battle.
For the visitors it will be a big fight until the end of the season if they want to stay up. They are hoping they can create an upset in Lyon, a bit like they did at home against Monaco.
They would be happy with a point at least. They are better organised now but this is going to be a tough game and I think Lyon will be too strong.
- Lyon 2, Toulouse 0 (13-2, Unibet)
- Traore to score first (9-2, Unibet)
- Lyon to win both halves (11-5, Unibet)
Nantes v St Etienne (4pm)
This is an interesting encounter between Nantes, sixth in the table and St Etienne, just five points adrift. They are both in the fight for fifth place which will qualify for the next Europa League.
St Etienne have not lost any of their last eight league matches and will travel to Nantes full of confidence. The home side, on the other hand, are finding really hard in 2018.
They are not as solid defensively as they used to be in the first half of the season and are struggling to score as well at the moment.
Emiliano Sala is their main player up front but can’t do everything by himself. Nantes and their manager Claudio Ranieri looked in control in the race for fifth place but have been overtaken by Rennes after just one win in their last seven league matches!
They have already suffered five defeats at home this season in only 14 matches. Their home league record against St Etienne is not bad with just one loss in their last nine encounters. But there were five draws in the other eight matches between them too.
St Etienne, unlike Nantes, are on a great run with no defeat in their last eight league matches. Manager Jean-Louis Gasset has made them really hard to beat.
They are well organised and are dangerous going forward as well. Paul-George Ntep is a doubt but all the other January signings (Debuchy, Mvila, Subotic, Beric) are ready and will start.
With a win St Etienne would come back just two points behind Nantes and confirm their ambition to compete for fifth place. I think it will be a draw once again between those two teams.