- Les Chamois were extremely hot during the autumn but ended 2016 winless in four games. The winter break came at a good time for them and they started 2017 with a win in the Coupe de France against lower league opposition.
- Their best player, Jimmy Roye is suspended tonight. The creative midfielder leads their assist tally with five, and also weighted in with three goals. His importance to the team is vital, and he’ll be badly missed.
- Centre back Mathieu Sans is also suspended, but isn’t a guaranteed starter anymore. Nobody else of significance is ruled out.
- Niort are unbeaten at home in six games and they have started to turn Le Stade Rene Gaillard into a fortress again.
- Les Tangos have picked up five points from five games since Marco Simone took charge of the club. They’ve looked harder to beat but the sheer fact they’ve only kept one clean sheet under the guidance of an ultra defensive manager just shows the lack of talent within the squad.
- Matters aren’t helped by the loss of centre back Aaron Appindangoye who is on African Nations Cup duty with Gabon.
- Young talented defender Nordi Mukiele was recently sold to Ligue 1 side Montpellier which leaves another gap at the back. They’ve yet to replace him.
- Les Tangos aren’t that bad on the road and have only lost 1 of their last 4 road trips. On two occasions they won at unfancied locations, first Ajaccio and then a shock victory at Reims.
Conclusion & betting analysis
- It’s fairly obvious that Laval will approach the match in a cautious way, as you'd expect with any Marco Simeone side. His aim will be to keep a clean sheet and restrict the opposition as much as possible.
- The big question is exactly how badly Laval will be affected by losing two starting defenders. They’ve had time to prepare at least so it might not be such a big factor but there are question marks in my mind.
- If Jimmy Roye was playing then I would probably back Niort here. But the loss of such a key playmaker is a massive factor for them because he creates so much.
- Niort are -0.25 Asian Handicap favourites which is probably about fair. Perhaps there’s a bit of value on Niort and part of me would like to take them. But they ended 2016 fairly tamely and Laval won't be easy to beat.
- I’m predicting a tight Niort win, but the risk of a draw is fairly high here so I’ll leave the game alone.
Recommended bet: None