OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and on he's looking at the Rhone derby and Marseille v Caen on Sunday.

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 Caen (Sun 4pm)

Marseille host Caen on Sunday afternoon at the Stade Velodrome, three days after their defeat away at Guimaraes in the Europa League (1-0) and “Evragate”.

The left-back was sent off before kickoff for kicking his own fan in a brawl. He is in big trouble now and will probably never play again for l’OM. This incident has been a PR shambles for the club and disastrous for its image.

Evra will not be involved in the game on Sunday, like Dimitri Payet who is still injured, as is Gregory Sertic. But everybody else is available. Manager Rudi Garcia rested some key players like Mitroglou, Thauvin and Ocampos. They should all come back in the starting line-up for this game against Caen.

Mitroglou has been struggling in the past few games, like Marseille in fairness, despite their win at Lille last Sunday where they needed a fantastic Mandanda in goal to get the three points. They are currently fourth in the table, just a point behind Lyon. But their home record in the league this season is not great with only two wins in five (with two draws and one loss).

They will be wary of this Caen side though as their record away in Marseille is pretty good in recent years. If they lost at the Velodrome last season (1-0), they registered three wins and a draw in their four previous visits!

Caen, currently seventh in the table after a great start of the season, have the second best defence in the league this season, with just eight goals conceded in 11 matches. They are very solid defensively and have some talent going forward as well with Santini and Rodelin, who combined for a wonder goal last weekend in the win against Troyes (1-0).

Manager Patrice Garande would be very happy with a point in Marseille and will rely on his players’ motivation as well. I think Caen will cause Marseille problems and I can see a draw between the two teams.

Julien's Tips

  • Correct score: Marseille 1, Caen 1 (7-1, Unibet)
  • First scorer: Thauvin (19-4, Unibet)
  • Draw at HT and FT (11-2, Unibet)

St Etienne v Lyon (Sun 8pm)

This is the big game of the weekend in Ligue, the Derby du Rhone between St Etienne and Lyon. It is sixth against third. Both clubs hate each other and so do their fans, so it will be a fantastic atmosphere at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard. This is the 115th derby between the two enemies and this should be another huge one.

Lyon will travel to nearby St Etienne on the back of five wins in a row in all competitions. They easily beat Everton (3-0) on Thursday in the Europa League and are full of confidence and momentum going into this game. Currently third in the league table, they are the most in-form team of the two clubs.

Nabil Fekir didn’t score on Thursday but has been outstanding this season with nine goals and four assists in Ligue 1 in ten matches. He is unstoppable at times in the 4-2-3-1 formation played by manager Bruno Genesio. Around him, Mariano Diaz, Bertrand Traoré, Memphis Depay or Houssem Aouar provide plenty of options and attacking talent. Diaz is a doubt for Sunday though.

Lyon are great going forward but not so much defending. They will need to find the right balance on Sunday. Genesio has pretty much a full squad available, so he will field his best starting XI. He should stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation even if the 4-3-3 would bring more balance in midfield. Lyon have lost only once away this season but they don’t have a good record recently away at St Etienne, where they have lost their last three games!

St Etienne have lost only once at home this season as well. But their current form is not the greatest, with just one win in their last six matches in all competitions.

Striker Jonathan Bamba is back in the squad but no Loic Perrin, the captain, and Remy Cabella, their best player, both injured. It is a huge blow for St Etienne. Forward Lois Diony is also out injured. Manager Oscar Garcia is under pressure after some tensions with some of the players. He has Ronael Pierre-Gabriel back from injury though and could start in a back five. I think it will be a very tight game and it will end in a draw.

Julien's Tips


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