France Ligue 1 – St Etienne v Lyon Preview (5/2/17)

St Etienne preview

  • Les Verts haven’t started 2017 too badly, picking up 7 points out of a possible 9. However, they did lose in the midweek Coupe de France away against Auxerre after extra time which was a blow, losing the chance to win domestic silverware for the season.
  • Sainte are up to fifth in the table but have generally been quite inconstant this year. A victory would nevertheless move them to within a point of their arch rivals Lyon tonight.
  • With the exception of some longer term injuries in attack, their only crucial absentee is goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier, who is certainly worth his weight in gold.
  • Left back Cheikh MBengue is injured as well (thigh). But Les Verts have a few players who can fill in for him, and have been anyway recently due to his African Nations involvement.
  • St Etienne only have the ninth best home record in Ligue 1. But just a solitary defeat in front of their own fans demonstrates how tough they are to beat at Le Stade Geoffroy Guichard.

Lyon preview

  • Sloppy defeats against Caen and Lille have seen OL start the new year in negative fashion. They were also knocked out of the midweek Coupe de France by Marseille (2-1 AET) so the Europa League remains their only chance of silverware now this season.
  • Lyon often look brilliant and play some great football, but some really sloppy errors have been creeping into their game. Either some shocking defending or poor finishing at crucial times has definitely dropped them some points this month.
  • Everyone of significance is available, apart from young centre back Mouctar Diakhaby who has been one of their real ‘finds’ this season. His absence actually can’t be underestimated. Surprisingly, he has probably been their best defender this year.
  • OL have the fourth best away record in Ligue 1 but tend to be all or nothing. They've won five times, but also lost on four occasions, only drawing just once on the road so far.

Conclusion & betting analysis

  • This is a big game of football between a couple of arch rivals. The two teams absolutely hate each other and this is one of the top fixtures in France each season. Expect the atmosphere to be intense, both teams to give 200% and a really spicy sort of encounter.
  • St Etienne used to have a terrible H2H record in this fixture, especially at home. However, in recent years they’ve started to turn the tide a bit. Les Verts have actually won 3 of the last 6 meetings with Lyon only prevailing on two occasions.
  • Both teams are close to full strength and whilst I admit Lyon have the better talent, I’m not so sure they in a great phase right now. It looks like a decent time for Sainte to be facing them.
  • Lyon are -0.25 favourites which is maybe fair. I would say the two sides should be close to a DNB handicap though. This isn't an easy place to visit and it’s the biggest match of the season for St Etienne. I don't have a real feel regarding the overall outcome so I prefer to leave this market alone.
  • The overs do interest me though. Lyon tend to be a very gung-ho type of side, creating a lot of chances but also conceding quite a few big opportunities. St Etienne might set out their stall to defend but I find it hard to believe they won’t get major opportunities tonight.
  • The absence of Stephane Ruffier can’t be underestimated here. The Sainte custodian ALWAYS seems to make a lot of saves in this fixture. Lyon must be licking their lips he’s still injured.
  • I prefer to take the over 2.25 goal line even though the odds are shorter. I just see this being an open exciting encounter with both teams scoring. It wouldn't surprise me if either side won 2-1 or a high scoring draw occurred.

Prediction: 2-2

Recommended bet 1 unit: Over 2.25 goals @ 1.68 (minimum odds acceptable 1.68)