OUR man in France is Julien Laurens and he's looking at Lyon v Angers and PSG'S trip to Nantes.
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.
Lyon v Angers (Sun 4pm)
Lyon, currently third in the table with the same amount of points as Monaco in second, host strugglers Angers, 19th at the moment, on Sunday afternoon. It is a good game to get back to the league for l’OL.
The home team is still without Bertrand Traoré who is injured while Mariano Diaz is also going to miss this game with a foot injury and Marçal is also doubtful. Diaz is a huge blow as he has been outstanding so far this season with his goals. He is a very strong player and Lyon don’t really have a replacement for him.
Manager Bruno Genesio can play one of the youngsters (Gouiri or Maolida) or he can move Maxwell Cornet or Memphis Depay as striker. But both of them are better wide. So this is a big problem for the team. At least, Nabil Fekir is there and in great form. The club’s captain has scored 10 goals at home in Ligue 1 already this season. He has been a star for Lyon and will be the main threat, even more in Diaz’ absence, for Angers on Sunday.
In midfield, Genesio has plenty of talents available with Tousart, Ndombele, Aouar or even Ferri. Lyon have only lost once at home all season so far, against Lille in a game where nothing went their way. They have a solid record at home in the league against Angers and they are confident before this match.
Angers’ form away from home is actually not too bad this season. They only won once but drew five times for just one defeat! It is at home where they have been really poor. They signed two good players in the transfer window already in goalkeeper Butelle and midfielder Oniangué. They will bring a lot to the team.
Angers actually won in Lyon a couple of years ago when they were having a great season. They lost in midweek in the league cup against Montpellier in the last minutes which would have hurt them. They will be more tired than Lyon as well because of that game. I think Lyon will win comfortably.
- Lyon 2, Angers 0 (13-2, Unibet)
- Fekir to score first (17-5, Unibet)
- Lyon to win both halves (49-20, Unibet)
Nantes v PSG (Sat 8pm)
For their first league game of 2018 on Sunday evening, Paris St Germain, the league leaders, travel to Nantes, currently fifth in the table after a very good first half of the season. It is a tricky trip for Paris as Nantes have been very solid defensively, especially at home where they only lost two games all season so far.
Manager Unai Emery has been happy by the start of 2018 though with two wins in the French Cup away at Rennes (6-1) last weekend and at Amiens in the league cup on Wednesday (2-0). On each occasion, the manager played a very strong team which means that the visitors are already fit and in good form after the winter break.
Edinson Cavani and Javier Pastore were dropped for those two matches because they came late and without the club’s permission from their holidays. It didn’t go down well with the rest of the squad either. They should be dropped again on Sunday. Emery and the club were not happy at all by their attitude. And the team has not suffered too much from their absence anyway, although Cavani’s absence is a huge blow.
Thiago Motta is also out after picking up a small calf injury in the French cup last weekend. But everyone else is available. Dani Alves and Layvin Kurrawa who did not start in midweek at Amiens should come back in the team like Alphonse Areola in goal. The front three will remain the same as in the last two matches: Kylian Mbappé will start as a centre forward with Neymar on the left and Angel Di Maria on the right.
Paris have now lost only once in the league this season, away at Strasbourg back at the beginning of December, and conceded two draws, away from home as well: at Montpellier (0-0) and at Marseille (2-2). They expect a huge battle against a very defensive team on Sunday but they will still fancy their chances too. Paris have an excellent record recently at Nantes. They have not lost there in the league since 2004 and have won in their last six visits!
Nantes are so excited by this game. The stadium will be full and the whole city is waiting for the visiting stars. Manager Claudio Ranieri has prepared his team very well this week. Nantes will be very defensive as they have been whole season. They have an excellent record at home so far (six wins, one draw, two losses) but they have only scored nine goals in those nine matches, conceding just five!
They are hoping that their very solid defence will frustrate Neymar, Mbappé and all the Paris team. They expect to be dominated but will play on the counter when they get the ball. Ranieri has no key players missing. It will be very hard for Nantes to get anything out of this game but they will make life very hard for this visitors who, I think, will only get a narrow win.