OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at Monaco's trip to 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.
St Etienne v Monaco (Fri 7.45pm)
Monaco travel to St Etienne on Friday evening after recording two wins in a row (in all competitions) for the first time since October! They beat Troyes in the league last weekend (3-2) in the dying minutes thanks to super sub Guido Carrillo and Caen (2-0) in the league cup thanks to a wonder goal by Radamel Falcao.
This is a big game for the reigning champions. They are third in the table with a big battle on their hands against Marseille and Lyon to finish second at the end of the campaign. Their away form has not been great lately, despite the fourth best record so far this season. Manager Leonardo Jardim still has some injuries worries. Youri Tielemans and Stevan Jovetic are still out, like Andrea Raggi.
Monaco should set up in a 4-4-2 formation with Keita Baldé and Falcao up front. They sometimes lack balance playing in this system but they will be dangerous going forward with Rony Lopes and Thomas Lemar on the wings.
Lemar is now fully fit and it’s a great boost for the team to have him back. Falcao has been carrying the team this season. He has 14 league goals already and is on fire despite not always getting great service. Monaco’s record at St Etienne in the league is not good at all. They haven’t won there since 2007 but have drawn 1-1 there in their last three visits.
St Etienne are going through a really bad crisis at the moment. They have not won in their last nine games in all competitions. Their new manager, Julien Sablé, has been in charge for the last five and the team has showed no improvement at all. They were sixth when he took over from Oscar Garcia and they are now 15th in the table, just two points above the bottom three.
They have loads of players missing for this game. Lacroix, Pierre-Gabriel and Dab are suspended while Perrin, Pogba, Selnaes and Hamouma are injured! At least Cabella is back after not being able to play against his parent club Marseille last weekend where St Etienne got smashed 3-0! The home side will play in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Lois Diony up front.
The striker, the most expensive signing for the club, is yet to score this season. I think Monaco will win in St Etienne on Friday evening. I think Radamel Falcao will score first at 3.35. My best bet is Monaco to win and both teams to score at 3.70.