OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at Lille v Lyon and Marseille against Bordeaux.
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.
Lille v Lyon (Sun 4pm)
Lyon travel to Lille on Sunday afternoon, four days after their 3-1 Europa League win over Villarreal. This is a tricky away game in Lille because you never know what kind of performance the team will put out. But Lyon can’t afford any more mistakes. They are currently fourth in the table, five points behind Monaco in second and four behind third-place Marseille.
Qualifying for the Champions League is very important for Lyon and they can’t afford to finish fourth! They need to get back to winning ways after three league defeats in a row now against Bordeaux, Monaco and Rennes. Lyon just can’t drop more points but will be under pressure at kick off with Monaco having won on Friday evening.
Manager Bruno Genesio made some mistakes in the last few games but apart from right-back Tete, he has all his players available. He should keep his 4-2-3-1 formation for this game with Nabil Fekir behind Mariano Diaz up front. Genesio could rotate his team a little bit for this game. Their away form has been good this season but their record at Lille is not so impressive with just one win, last season, in their last nine visits in the north of France.
Lille have been hit and miss since new manager Christophe Galtier took over Marcelo Bielsa. They are capable of playing well at times, and of defending well, as they showed against Paris last weekend (1-0 defeat). But Lille also keep making mistakes.
Galtier wants them to fight hard against Lyon. They need a positive result. They have worked hard all week while Lyon have been playing in Europe and they want to take advantage of the fact that they will be fresher and fitter. I think Lille will make life really hard for Lyon.
Marseille v Bordeaux (Sun 8pm)
This is the big game of the weekend in Ligue 1. Marseille, currently third in the table, host seventh-place Bordeaux on Sunday evening. L’OM are just a point behind Monaco in a huge battle for second place in Ligue 1. They dropped two points last weekend in St Etienne and they need to get back to winning ways on Sunday at home.
Marseille have been impressive at the Stade Velodrome this season, with only one defeat against Rennes back in September. Even Paris SG only managed a draw there. The home side, however, will be without one of their key players in captain and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. He is out injured and will miss between two to three weeks of action. He is not only a very good keeper but also a leader in this team. He will be a big miss. Yohann Pelé will replace Mandanda in goal.
Kostas Mitroglou is also out injured, for a similar length of time. He had been scoring lately so he will be a miss for the team. It means that Valère Germain is certain to start up front. He has been on great form as well. Manager Rudi Garcia should field a 4-2-3-1 formation with Luiz Gustavo and Zambo Anguissa as defensive midfielders. They have been very strong together.
Marseille will also rely on Florian Thauvin who has been immense this season. Their record at home in the league against Bordeaux is excellent. Their last defeat was 10 years ago although Bordeaux got a 0-0 draw in each of their last two visits.
For Bordeaux, new manager Gus Poyet has made a huge difference. His team have won both of their games under his stewardship and he has brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the dressing room. Things have gone his way so far but this is Poyet’s biggest game since arriving in Bordeaux. His team have a decent record away from home this season so far (four wins, three draws and six losses). They will be the underdogs but they like playing on the counter.
Nicolas De Preville is back from suspension up front and the manager has all the rest of his squad available. He should keep a 4-3-3 formation on Sunday. Bordeaux are playing well under Poyet and are very efficient but I think Marseille will be too good for them.