OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at two big Saturday games.
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 Montpellier (Sat 4pm)
Paris SG host Montpellier on Saturday, six days after they lost their second league game of the season last Sunday away at Lyon (2-0). The league leaders, still eight points clear of Lyon in second, have to bounce back after their disappointing performance last weekend.
Neymar was a huge miss in that game. He also missed the win against Guingamp in the French Cup in midweek and he is still a doubt for this encounter. Paris is obviously a totally different team when he plays and it would be a huge boost to have him back, especially against such a strong defensive team.
Kylian Mbappé is also a doubt like Marco Verratti. Mbappé would also be a big loss and would be replaced by Angel Di Maria who has done well lately when playing. Dani Alves is also suspended after his red card at Lyon. He got a three match ban so Thomas Meunier will replaced him at right back.
New signing Lassana Diarra is not ready to play yet but he could prove to be a good addition to the squad. Thiago Motta is also still out. Manager Unai Emery could rotate some of the other players as well like Presnel Kimpembe, Javier Pastore or Julian Draxler all being in contention to start.
Paris SG only drew 0-0 away at Montpellier in the reverse fixtures a few weeks ago so the Parisians know what to expect against the best defence in the league. Paris’ record at home is exceptional this season with 11 wins in 11 league matches and 42 goals scored. And they have not lost against Montpellier at the Parc des Princes since 2010! They have an excellent record at home against them despite two 0-0 in their last three visits.
Montpellier will play like they always do: with a very strong five-man defence. They won’t give much space to Paris and will fight on every ball. They are very well organised and play on the counter attack with two excellent wing backs in Aguilar and Roussillon. They are currently 7th in the table as well so doing extremely well. They also played in the Cup in midweek and beat Lorient. They are full of confidence and don’t fear their trip to Paris at all.
- PSG 2, Montpellier 0 (23-4, Unibet)
- Di Maria to score first (4-1, Unibet)
- Under 2.5 goals (41-20, Unibet)
Metz v Nice (Sat 7pm)
Nice travel to Metz on Saturday evenin, hoping to continue their excellent current form. Nice are indeed one of the most in-form teams in Ligue 1 at the moment with six wins and one draw in their last seven league matches.
And they were very unlucky to drop two points in the last second at Monaco two weeks ago (2-2). They are playing very well at the moment with their striker and best player this season Mario Balotelli (12 league goals already) being in great form. He is leading by example and is crucial for Nice.
The bad news this week is the little setback for Wylan Cyprien. The midfield just got back from a long knee injury and will be now out for another three weeks. Nice have enough talented midfielders to cope without him but he is still a big loss. Defensively, Nice is still without Jallet, Souquet and Le Marchand so it will be a makeshift defence once more in Lucien Favre’s 4-3-3 formation.
The Nice manager is very happy on how his players are performing at the moment. They are up to 6th in the table now but level on points with Nantes in 5th. Nice have a good recent record at Metz in the league with two wins and a draw in their last three visits although their current away record this season is not the best (3 wins, 3 draws, 4 losses).
This is a huge game for Metz. The team has really been improving lately under new manager Frederic Hantz. They are still bottom of the table and seven points behind the first team out of the relegation zone but they have won four of their last six Ligue 1 matches.
They only lost at Monaco last weekend (3-1) and drew at Dijon (1-1) before that. They are defending better and attacking better and more importantly the players and the club now really believe they can stay up. They need a result on Saturday but I think Nice will be too strong.