Lens had a sticky patch a few weeks ago but seem to have got back on track somewhat. They beat Brest and then drew at Clermont last week. The performance in Clermont wasn’t that great and they were probably outplayed for the most part but did at least manage to grind out a draw. Lens were hit hard by the injury to key centre back Aleksandar Radovanovic but it seems ever since that happened they have been galvanised a little bit. The rest of the squad is in prime condition anyway. Ajaccio are missing Jeremy Choplin and Riad Nouri to suspension which is as bitter blow because both are key players. ACA have been poor for most of the season and away from home are usually unvoncinging. They won at Orleans last Friday night but that was facing a much poorer outfit. Lens should have enough to win today and they really need the three points in order to cut the gap to Brest. Taking them on a -0.75 Asian Handicap makes some sense.
This may well be the best match of the night to watch in terms of entertainment, goals and overall quality. Both are decent sides and lets not forget that Troyes have actually won 8 of their last 12 matches so might be a little bit disrespected by the bookies here and some would argue are a value price. Clermont are a side that I do rate highly though and can play some lovely technical football. The pick I like here is over 2.25 goals. I just think there is a nice match up of style here which could and should lead to a relatively open game. Some missing players on either side, especially Troyes without Obiang and Giraudon should aid the cause for goals too. The one worry is that Clermont tend to keep a lot of clean sheets and it’s been a while since both teams scored in any of their fixtures - perhaps overdue. But taking the 2.25 line looks a good price to me and I’ll chance my arm.
I think Paris FC are a crazy price here and have to be backed. They aren’t the greatest attacking team in the world but have kept 7 clean sheets in their last 8 games and must surely fancy their chances of keeping a poor Red Star at bay. The visitors will actually get to play a game in Paris for once and will be the closest they get to an actual home fixture all season (their own home games played on a neutral ground 60 miles away). So Red Star will be fired up for this derby match and actually come into the affair on the back of a 3-0 win vs Sochaux last week. But crucially, two of their better players recently Clement Chantome and Xavier Thomas are injured today and the bottom line is that they aren’t a very good side anyway. I think Paris FC should be on a -1 Asian line around the 1.95 mark tonight but instead they can be backed at the same price just the win the game outright! Even if you were to reduce home advantage due to the derby nature of the game Paris FC still look like a great price here and look like the best value of the night to me. They might only win in something like a tight 1-0 but that doesn’t matter.
Team news is very frustrating here. Niort are missing their captain and leading scorer Andre Dona Ndoh who is an absolutely massive player for them. Niort have scored 20 goals this season and Ndoh has netted 11 of them! It’s also been a turbulent week for the club with ex manager Patrice Lair spouting off to the media about how poisonous the atmosphere is at board level. Lair has been placed on gardening leave so Jean Philippe Faure takes caretaker charge again. He managed to lead them to a somewhat fortunate 1-1 draw at Lorient last week. If Brest were anywhere near full strength I would be all over them on a -0.25 handicap. But sadly they themselves are missing some key guys like Yoann Court and Matthias Auret. They have a couple of suspensions (Belkebla & Castelletto) as well. Brest have looked really good recently but will be devoid of a lot of creativity here and might have to rely on defence. The logical bet for me here is under 2.5 goals. With both sides missing key attacking pieces a lot of things point to a low scoring contest. Maybe Brest might find a way to sneak an ugly 1-0 win overall.
Both teams have one thing in common. Each have already sacked a manager this season and replaced him with a new guy. At the moment, it’s Nicolas Usai at Chateauroux who has made more of an impact than Herve Delle Maggiore at GFCA. Usai has come in and made the most of a poor squad, making La Berrichonne quite tough to break down. Chateauroux have kept 4 of 6 recent clean sheets with the only exceptions being against Metz and Le Havre who are both good sides. GFCA have suddenly been struggling to score goals, in fact they’ve fired a total blank 5 of their last 8 fixtures. I don't see this being a particularly high scoring or interesting game. It will probably be quite a slugfest and devoid of much quality. I have been successful backing under 2.25 in some recent Chateauroux fixtures and will continue with the same tactic tonight.
Neither team is in great form heading into the match and it's just a question of who you trust more. Beziers have been comfortably beaten in all of their last three matches and suddenly look a bit out of their depth at Ligue 2 level. It is worth mentioning that they faced some strong teams like Brest and Clermont though. Orleans aren’t in that category and arrive here having lost 5 of their last 6 games. They could also be mentally and physically fatigued after having faced PSG in the cup on Tuesday night. Beziers on a DNB handicap look a big price tonight but they have yet to win a home match this season and it would be hard to trust them. Instead I like the idea of backing over 2.25 goals. I have been let down by some over bets in this league recently but I think that both teams will fancy their chances here leading to an open game of football.
Auxerre aren’t a bad price here to be honest, but whether they will win or not remains to be seen. I would say there is a high chance of a draw between two evenly matched sides. Key playmaker for Grenoble Jessy Benet remains injured and they were pretty toothless without him last week against Paris FC. Auxerre have drawn their last two matches 0-0 and whilst I don’t think this will necessarily be a boring match it has the potential to be very low scoring. The best bet is probably under 2 goals but I am never a great fan of this line and the prices aren’t great.
Valenciennes are teetering just above the relegation zone and won just 2 of their last 15 games . One of those was a shock 4-2 success at home to Lens a few weeks ago. This is a similar type of fixture so perhaps they can take some comfort from that result. Metz are deserving favourites although to have them so short around the 1.75 offers no value at all. I would say something around the 2.10-2.20 mark would be fairer. Despite all that, I am expecting them to win fairly easily tonight. This is going to be their last match of 2018 due to their scheduled fixture on Friday getting postponed. With nothing else to look ahead to, I expect a fully focused Metz who will aim to finish the year in style and on top of the table.
Metz haven’t been as free scoring as they were in the early stages of the season. They have faced a number of teams recently who have been willing to dig in and be really defensive against them though, so it’s perhaps understandable. My concern for Valenciennes here is that they have a habit of being way too open and potentially allowing big chances. They have just been fortunate themselves that they’ve faced poor attacks or negative teams like Paris FC, Beziers & Niort recently and been allowed to ‘get away with it’ Metz have the firepower and ability to fully take advantage. I like the overs for this game and I will be aggressive and take over 2.5 goals at a bigger piece. I just see this as better value than being conservative and taking over 2.25 at poorer odds. Metz could cover this line on their own, although I suspect Valenciennes will have a go themselves and might score. It’s a shame for the hosts that key playmaker Gaetan Robail isn’t available but this should still be quite an open game containing numerous chances.
Clermont are a team that I rate very highly. They have only lost 2 of their last 14 games and can at times play some excellent football which is nice on the eye to watch. They did lose last time out away at Paris FC 3-0 though and I wonder how much this will set them back. Of more concern are some fitness problems within the camp. Midfielder Manuel Perez misses out here which is a blow because they've had an extremely settled midfield/attack in recent weeks, near enough going unchanged for the last 7 games in this department. Perez started the season on the ACL injured list but back then they had Lorenzo Rajot available, but he is ruled out for the rest of the year and their squad depth could be exposed. The defence meanwhile doesn’t have any official abenes, but a number of players including Nsimba, Ogier, Sissoko and Phojo have been suffering fitness concerns in the last week or so due to injury or illness so might not be operating at full capacity.
Lens meanwhile, surprised me by beating Brest in their last fixture. Things hadn't been going well for Les Sang et or and that success managed to break a five game winless run. Prior to that they had come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Lorient so the team clearly has some momentum right now. Their squad is in prime condition today apart from long term central defenders JK Duverne and Aleksandar Radovanovic who are both sidelined due to torn ACLs. If Clermont were at peak condition I would totally back them on a -0.25 Asian Handicap but I have a feeling Lens could take advantage of some of their defensive concerns today. I’m convinced the best bet is over 2 goals. Lens away games tend to have a history of containing goals and in recent times they had a wild 2-4 loss at Valenciennes and an exciting 2-2 draw at Les Havre. Something like a 2-2 outcome wouldn’t surprise me again and the overs are definitely my fancy here.
The goal line for this match is a genuine 1.75, in fact some would argue it is close to 1.5! Even for French Ligue 2 standards this is a really low goal line, a bit too low if you ask me even though I wouldn't necessarily fancy goals. Paris FC matches this season average just 1.5 goals in them which is much lower than anyone else. However, there have been situations where Grenoble fixtures have exploded into life with the right goal at the right time. 0-0 is certainly a possibility here but all it takes is one mistake, a moment of brilliance or a mistake for someone to get ahead. In fact, some of Paris FC’s recent away performance lead me to think Grenoble could nick this game 1-0.