OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and tonight he's looking at Marseille v Lille and Monaco's trip to Guingamp.
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.
Marseille v Lille (Sat 4pm)
Marseille host Lille on Saturday afternoon at the Stade Vélodrome, five days before their Europa League semi-final first leg against RB Salzburg. There is no doubt that the OM players are thinking a lot about their European adventures, but this is a big game for them as they have closed the gap to four points with Monaco in second place.
They are currently fourth in the table but they are back in the race for second spot. Their win against Troyes in the last minutes of the game last weekend has boosted them even more so and they are well up for this game.
Manager Rudi Garcia is still without Steve Mandanda, the keeper and captain, and Boubacar Kamara at the back, both injured, but Rolando and Bouna Sarr are back in the squad and in contention for the weekend. Dimitri Payet has been magnificent in the last two matches, especially against RB Leipzig in the Europa League quarter-final second leg (5-2) last week. The manager will field his strongest team on Saturday. Marseille have a very good record against Lille at home in Ligue 1 and their home form has been excellent all season, as only Rennes and Lyon have won at the Vélodrome .
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Lille, on the other hand, are fighting against relegation and finding it really hard. They are still 18th which is the playoff position, but they have not won a game in 10 – since January at home to Strasbourg. Their fans have turned against them and manager Christophe Galtier, a former Marseille player, is struggling to find the solutions. Thiago Mendes is back from suspension, which is a great boost for the team. Ibrahim Amadou, the captain, is also back from injury. They are two key players.
Galtier could go for a very defensive approach to at least get a point but the players have lost a lot of confidence as we saw last weekend when they conceded two late goals to concede a draw at home against Guingamp (2-2).
- Marseille 2, Lille 0 (23-4, Unibet)
- Payet to score first (11-2, Unibet)
- Marseille win both halves (2-1, Unibet)
Guingamp v Monaco (Sat 7pm)
Monaco travel to Guingamp on Saturday, a week after being thrashed in Paris and losing their league title. They were humiliated by the new French champions (7-1) and had an absolute nightmare at the Parc des Princes. They need to bounce back and react now in Brittany on Saturday.
They are still second in the table but only four points clear of Lyon and Marseille. They cannot let their two opponents get any closer in the race for second. They have to secure their second place as soon as they can.
In Paris, Monaco lost Djibril Sidibé through injury. He hurt his knee and could miss the World Cup, so it is a huge blow. Albany Touré will replace him at right-back. Keita Baldé and Stevan Jovetic are also out through injury, while Kamil Glik and Danielj Subasic are doubtful. However, Monaco have an in-form Rony Lopes in their ranks. The Portuguese midfielder has now scored in eight consecutive Ligue 1 matches. He is on fire and will inspire Monaco again on Saturday.
The visitors have an average record away from home in Ligue 1 this season and their visits to Guingamp are always a bit hit and miss. The hosts are certain to stay up which is always good news for such ha small club. Once again, they are having a remarkable season and they will play this game in a sold-out stadium and with no pressure. The players will play with free minds.
Manager Antoine Kombouaré is still without some key players in Deaux, Salibur or Tabanou while Diallo is a big doubt too. The home side will fancy their chances but I think Monaco are going to bounce back and get back to winning ways.