- Ended 2016 in really good form, picking up 8 points from their last 4 games. TFC worked really hard in a number of those fixtures and looked to have turned a corner. One noticeable difference was improved defensive solidity, conceding just a couple of goals during this period.
- Their best offensive player Denis Bouanga (5 goals + 5 assists) is on African Nations Cup duty with Gabon. This is a serious blow and without him they could definitely lack much of a threat. Fellow winger Geoffrey Malfleury is in the squad but rated doubtful with injury.
- Defensive midfielder Ousseynou Cisse is another on African Nations duty. Everyone else is available though.
- The 16 goals conceded at home is a league high and a record which must improve if they are to ultimately achieve safety. The signs were that things were getting better prior to the winter break, but the real acid test will be against good sides like Lens.
- Les Sang et Or have only lost three games all season and a victory against GFCA just prior to the winter break moved them up to third position.
- Goalscoring is still a big problem for Lens. Not so much in grabbing one goal per game, but they never seem to threaten that many more. Lens are a side who tend to miss chances and still lack a real quality striker.
- Alain Casanova’s men have the fourth best away record in Ligue 2 and can often play pretty well on their travels. Their style and system suits road play.
- Left wing back Karim Hafez is on international duty with Egypt. Midfielder Adama Guira is also at the African Nations Cup but isn’t a regular starter so won’t be missed.
Conclusion & betting analysis
- Here is another example where the African Nations has left a side without its key offensive player. Denis Bouanga has been one of the few stand out stars for Tours this season and they’ll miss him tonight.
- Lens have more strength in depth to cope with any absences and it also helps that their squad is in healthy condition.
- It’s understandable that the visitors are favourites in between a DNB and -0.25 handicap line. This looks pretty fair to me. They have the extra quality and are the sort of team who might be able to grind out a victory if needed.
- But I’m not interested in getting involved. Tours showed great improvement towards the end of 2016 so might still be riding on a crest of a wave.
- The over/under line is set at 1.75 which looks a little bit generous. I’m fairly tempted here and would probably back the over if Bouanga was available. But by taking him out of the Tours team, their goal threat significantly reduces.
- My general feeling is that this is the sort of fixture that Lens will sneak, something like 1-0. I wouldn’t want to put anyone off backing them but I will give Tours some respect and swerve the visitors.
Recommended bet: None