OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at PSG v Lille and Monaco against Troyes.
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.
PSG v Lille (Sat 4pm)
Paris host Lille on Saturday afternoon at the Parc des Princes on the back of two defeats in a row away at Strasbourg in Ligue 1 last weekend (2-1) and away at Bayern Munich in midweek in the Champions League (3-1).
It is the first time that the team has lost two games back to back since 2014 and the players have to react. They are still leading the table, nine points clear of Monaco, Lyon and Marseille but the fans, the manager and the chairman are expecting a strong reaction against strugglers Lille who still don’t have a manager, but have somehow won their last two games in the league!
The Parisians will have to show a better attitude and play more as a team than they did in the last two games where they were below par and too individualistic. Manager Unai Emery will be without his superstar Neymar who is suspended for this game.
It is a big blow because the Brazilian is a fantastic player but at times his lack of efforts defensively has been a problem. Paris played much better without him against Nice a few weeks ago, for example, than with him prior to that game.
Angel Di Maria will replace him. Thiago Silva, the centre half and captain, is also out. So Presnel Kimpembe will step in. He is probably in better form right now than Silva. Thiago Motta is also missing and Javier Pastore might replace Julian Draxler in midfield.
The league leaders have won all their eight league home matches this season, Edinson Cavani scoring 10 goals in those eight games, and they have a fantastic record at home against Lille who haven’t won in Paris since 1996.
For the visitors, the task is to be the first team to get at least a point in Paris this season. It is a huge task but the players believe they can upset the odds. They won their last two matches under their caretaker manager Joao Sacramento, against Toulouse and Lyon, each time their keeper Mike Magian saving a penalty.
They have more confidence now and are better organised than under Marcelo Bielsa. The players are relishing the challenge of facing PSG but I still think they will get beaten.
- PSG 3, Lille 0 (13-2, Unibet)
- Mbappe to score first (37-10, Unibet)
- Cavani to score two or more (17-10, Unibet)
Monaco v Troyes (Sat 7pm)
Monaco suffered a setback in midweek in the Champions league with a humiliating defeat away at Porto (5-2). It is their fourth loss in their last five games in all competitions.
Their laborious victory against Angers last weekend in Ligue 1 (1-0) didn’t solve all their problems this season. Manager Leonardo Jardim played a B team in Porto but the attitude and workrate of the players who started were so wrong.
The manager will field a much stronger team on Saturday with Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, Djibril Sidibé, Jorge, Fabinho and Keita Baldé all back after being rested in midweek. The good news for Monaco is that Thomas Lemar is finally fit and will be involved in this game. The team has missed his talent and creativity badly.
Daniel Subasic is also back in goal. Steven Jovetic is still out injured though like Youri Tielemans. Monaco need to get better defensively. They are conceding too many goals while Falcao is doing all the work on his own up front: he scored 14 in 13 league games so far and three in his last three Champions League matches as well.
Monaco are third in the table, level on points with Lyon and Marseille and face a big battle to finish second. Monaco don’t have a good record recently at home against Troyes. They have only once in their last five encounters and it was last season.
The visitors, currently 15th in the table, played very well ten days ago against PSG despite losing at the Parc des Princes (2-0). They play good football but are a bit naive defensively at times. They will try to be more solid on Saturday in Monaco and will try to hit the home side on the counter attack, like they did in Paris. I don’t think they will be able to beat Monaco but they will make life hard for them. However, Monaco will win.