OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and tonight he's looking at three Saturday matches.
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.
Strasbourg v Lyon (Sat 8pm)
Lyon travel to Strasbourg on Saturday evening on the back of a wonderful winning run of eight matches in a row! They are unstoppable at the moment and they destroyed Troyes last weekend at home (3-0). Bruno Genesio's side are second in the table, one point clear of Monaco and two of Marseille. They know they are nearly there in terms of clinching this second place which would mean a direct qualification for next season Champions League.
It is the club’s objective and very important financially to achieve it. They have turned things around with those eight consecutive wins and they are now favourites to finish second. Lyon can’t take this game for granted though and they won’t. They have a weakened squad available. Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and centre-half Mouctar Diakhaby who are suspended, will be hugely missed. It means Genesio will have to change totally his defence.
However, Lyon are so strong going forward that they don’t feel it will be a problem to have a makeshift back four. They will keep their front three of Depay, Traoré and Fekir. Which means that Mariano Diaz should start on the bench again. Lyon have been impressive away from home lately and they will take this game very seriously. They won each of their last six visits in Strasbourg.
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On the other hand, Strasbourg are struggling massively at the moment. They are in the other extreme having not won in eleven league matches, and having lost to Rennes last weekend (2-1). They are currently 17th in the table, just a point above Toulouse in 18th and three of Troyes in 19th. They have lost a lot of confidence and momentum in those eleven games in a row where things have not gone their ways at all. They are very fragile and really fear this Lyon side.
- Strasbourg 0, Lyon 3 (11-1, Unibet)
- Depay to score first (19-4, Unibet)
- Lyon win to nil (9-4, Unibet)
PSG v Rennes (Sat 8pm)
Paris will receive the Ligue 1 trophy and be officially crowned champions on Saturday night. There will be lots of celebrations in front of a packed stadium. It will be a very special evening and the players want to make sure that they put on a good performance on the pitch before. They won the French Cup on Tuesday (2-0) against third division club Les Herbiers at the Stade de France.
It is their third domestic treble in the last four years and this will also be Unai Emery's last home game in charge as he will not be there next season. The Spanish coach also wants to end on a high in front of the fans. So this is an important game for Paris. The manager is still without some key players in Marco Verratti, Neymar and Dani Alves. Thiago Silva and Julian Draxler will make their return to the league squad.
The starting eleven will still be a very strong one. Emery will play the front three of Mbappé, Cavani and Di Maria. Giovanni Lo Celso is in great form in midfield and at the back, Alves is the only player missing. Paris have drawn their last two league games, against Guingamp (2-2) and at Amiens last weekend (2-2). The players didn't look that focused. They will be focused on Saturday though to finish the season at home in style.
Paris have won 17 and drawn one at home so far in the league this season, scoring 70 goals (3.89 average per match). Their last two encounters at home in Ligue 1 with Rennes were great with two 4-0 wins. It is also the fourth time they will play Rennes this season. Paris have won away three times, 4-1 in the league, 6-1 in the French Cup and 3-2 in the League Cup.
Rennes will be hoping they don’t concede a fourth defeat to Paris this season. They are fifth in the table at the moment, still fighting to qualify directly for the Europa League next season. There are a few teams behind them so they need a result in Paris. Manager Sabri Lamouchi will try a cautious approach after being dominated three times already this season by the Parisians.
- PSG 3, Rennes 0 (17-2, Unibet)
- Di Maria to score first (9-2, Unibet)
- PSG win both halves (7-5, Unibet)
Monaco v St Etienne (Sat 8pm)
Monaco, last season’s French champions, are in a big fight for second place. They are currently third, just a point behind Lyon in second. They have two games left this campaign to try to overtake l’OL and finish second. After three matches without a win, they went back to winning ways last weekend in Caen (2-1) thanks to their new prodigy Moussa Sylla, who is 18 and scored a brace for his first ever Ligue 1 start.
He bailed out Monaco who had to win to stay in touch with Lyon and Marseille in fourth. For the reception of St Etienne, manager Leonardo Jardim has some key players back. Fabinho and Jemerson, two very important players, are back from suspension. The team really missed them last weekend so it is a big boost that they are back. Adam Diakhaby is not as influential but he is also back from suspension. Radamel Falcao and Djibril Sidibé are also back in the squad after their injuries.
For Falcao, it was never too serious but the striker and captain is a big player for Monaco. Sidibé is back despite suffering a bad knee injury with France in March. Neither of them should start but they could come on. Keith Baldé, Stevan Jovetic and Jorge are still out injured. At least, the team will be stronger than last weekend. It is a huge game for Monaco and they have to win it. It could be a disaster for them to drop more points. They have only lost once at home, against Paris SG and their home record in the league against St Etienne is good with three wins and a draw in their last four encounters at Louis II.
However, like Monaco, St Etienne still have something to play for. Currently in sixth place, they are fighting to qualify for the Europa League next season. They can still catch Rennes in fifth with two more points but have to be careful of Nice (one point behind them) and even Montpellier and Bordeaux (three points behind them). It is a shame they lost last weekend against Bordeaux at home after 13 games in a row without a defeat in the league. They will want to bounce back in Monaco.