OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at Nice v Lyon, Marseille against Guingamp and PSG's trip to Monaco.
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 Lyon (Sun 2pm)
These sides were fighting for a top-three finish last season and Nice were the better team back then. This season is different.
The home side is fighting against relegation at the moment. They are 17th in the table after a terrible start of the campaign. They have already lost three times at home this season in Ligue 1.
On the other hand they are also capable of great things like beating Monaco 4-0 at home as well. Nice have been a bit unpredictable so far this season. They played in Europe in midweek and qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League which is a big boost for the club and the squad.
Mario Balotelli was excellent and on the scoresheet once again. He has been the only good thing at Nice so far this campaign and will be the main threat against Lyon on Sunday as he returns from suspension.
Cyprien and St Maximin are still out injured but everybody else is available for manager Lucien Favre. Nice have won only two of their last nine matches in all competitions coming into this clash with l’OL. They have won their last two home matches against them in the league (2-0 and 3-0) so they will want to continue their good run of results against them.
Lyon were also in action on Thursday evening in the Europa League. They had won six games in a row in all competitions before only being able to draw 0-0 at home with Montpellier last weekend. Nabil Fekir was suspended for that game and without him, Lyon lacked a lot of ideas and creativity. He is back for them this weekend.
Bruno Genesio has all his squad available and will field a 4-2-3-1 formation with his front four of Diaz, Traoré, Depay and Fekir. Lyon have scored for fun so far this season, other than against Montpellier. They know they will get space to exploit on Sunday.
Lyon are currently third in the table and their away form in the league has been good with just one defeat in their six matches on the road so far.
I think it will be very open and that Nice will give Lyon a good game and it will end in a draw.
- Nice 2, Lyon 2 (19-2, Unibet)
- Diaz to score first (21-4, Unibet)
- Draw and both teams to score (31-10, Unibet)
Marseille v Guingamp (Sun 4pm)
Marseille have been riding their luck lately with two draws in the last few minutes away at Bordeaux last weekend (1-1) in Ligue 1 and at Konyaspor on Thursday in the Europa League (1-1).
They didn’t play well in either match but stayed unbeaten. They have not lost in the league since September when they were beaten at home 3-1 by Rennes. They are a bit inconsistent in the content of their performances but the results are good and they are currently fourth in the table.
Rudi Garcia rotated his team in the Europa League but you can expect key players like Payet and Mitroglou to be back for this game against Guingamp. The Greek striker has been average since joining the club from Benfica. He has only scored twice in seven league matches.
He needs to do better and the team relies on him a lot. Luis Gustavo was suspended against Bordeaux last weekend but he is back this week. He is such a key player for this Marseille. He should partner Anguissa again in midfield in Garcia’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Marseille have a very good record at home in Ligue 1 against Guingamp with just one loss in their last ten encounters at the Velodrome. Guingamp are actually the worst team away from home in Ligue 1 this season so far.
They have won just once on the road this campaign and Antoine Kombouaré’s team, who did so well last season, are struggling in 15th place in the table, in the mix to go down.
The visitors will be up for a fight though, that’s what you get against them. They haven’t won any of their last five matches (three defeats and two draws) and their last clean sheet was more than a month ago.
I expect Marseille to win this game but having to work for it.
- Marseille 2, Guingamp 0 (7-1, Unibet)
- Mitroglou to score first (31-10, Unibet)
- Marseille to win both halves (14-5, Unibet)
Monaco v PSG (Sun 7.45pm)
This is the big game of the weekend. Monaco, second in the table, host the unbeaten leader Paris. The home side were battered 4-1 at home by RB Leipzig on Tuesday in the Champions League.
They are out of all European competitions now with a game still to be played in two weeks. It has been a terrible campaign in the Champions League for Leonardo Jardim and his players. They drew two and lost three in their five games in the competitions so far after reaching the semi finals last season.
Monaco have to redeem themselves after the pathetic result against Leipzig on Tuesday. Jardim will still be without two key players in Djibril Sidibé and Thomas Lemar who are still injured. Stevan Jovetic should also be missing.
Despite their struggles in Europe, Monaco have as many points so far this season as at this stage last year. They are still unbeaten at home in Ligue 1 with five victories and a draw, scoring 21 goals.
Radamel Falcao has scored thirteen goals in just ten league games this season. However, despite some good contribution from Keita Baldé or Rony Lopes, Falcao is too often isolated up front.
Defensively, Monaco showed their limits in Europe. The centre-halves Jemerson and Glik has been poor lately. Monaco have only kept three clean sheets in their last ten games in all competitions. They did beat Paris last season (3-1) at the Stade Louis II in the league but Paris have only lost in two of their last seven visits to the Principality.
The Parisians will not fear the trip particularly arriving in such incredible form – with eleven wins and two draws in the league, and five victories in five matches in Europe. They have scored 67 goals so far, averaging 3.72 goals per game.
The front three of Neymar – Cavani – Mbappé is unstoppable at the moment. This will be a special game for Kylian Mbappé who will return to his former club. The 18-year-old French prodigy has scored seven goals this season, while Neymar is on 12 and Cavani on 21.
Only Thiago Motta is missing for the league leaders and Unai Emery should choose the same starting XI that started against Celtic on Wednesday. The Parisians won 7-1 against the Scots. They struggled at Marseille (2-2) in their last big away league match but they will be up for it on Sunday.
They expect a reaction from Monaco and a tough game. It will be a spectacular match for sure and I expect a high-scoring draw.