OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at St Etienne v Marseille tonight.
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 Marseille (Sun 8pm)
Marseille have moved into second place in the table ahead of Monaco and Lyon after their battering of Metz last weekend. They have the advantage of once again playing before their two rivals in the race for second.
So, they could put more pressure on them with a good result in St Etienne. It is a tricky trip for l’OM but they are currently in the form of their life! They also destroyed second division Bourg-en-Bresse in the French cup in midweek (9-0). Kostas Mitroglou scored a hat trick, which will boost his confidence. However, he will start on the bench on Friday with Valère Germain being the first choice as centre forward and playing really well.
Marseille have been scoring for fun lately, with 28 goals in their last 8 matches in all competitions! The front four of Payet – Sanson – Thauvin – Germain in the team’s 4-2-3-1 formation is on fire and they will be very hard to stop on Friday. Manager Rudi Garcia even has Jordan Amavi back at left back after playing in midweek and the squad has no new injury concern, so it will be Marseille’s strongest XI on Friday.
This game is a perfect preparation for their Europa League clash with Braga on Thursday. They have been good away from home in Ligue 1 this season, harbouring the third best record in the league. This is always a special game against St Etienne as the rivalry between the fans and the clubs is huge. Marseille have a very good record at the Geoffroy Guichard Stadium, where they lost only once in their last 10 visits.
This is a tough game for St Etienne. The home side is 12th in the table but are far from being safe and they can’t afford too many bad games. They have been hit and miss this season. They will be without Remy Cabella, their number 10, who is on loan from Marseille so is not eligible. It is a huge blow for them. Manager Jean-Louis Gasset will change his formation to go five at the back and try to contain Marseille’s attacking power.