Monthly Archives: September 2020

Norway Eliteserien – Stabaek v Haugesund Preview (12/9/20)

Match Preview

Stabaek are winless in 7 games but did well to come back and get a 2-2 draw at Rosenborg in their last match. They are a very inconsistent side and difficult to predict. They range from wild open games to tighter ones. A good recent signing for Stabaek looks to be Sammy Skytte, who was struggling for gametime at Glimt but impressed last year when on loan at Stabaek. Key man in the middle Emil Bohinen is injured for this game and unlikely to feature. He could be leaving the club this transfer window anyway. Stabaek have the third worst home record in the Eliteserien and it seems like playing on their own grass turf has served little advantage this season.

This is a proper midtable battle between 9th and 8th but Haugesund appear to be heading into the contest in much better form. They won both of their last two games and have steadily improved after a difficult start to the season. Attacker Kristoffer Velde who has been in fairly good form recently is suspended today. I personally see this match as a tighter more defensively oriented affair and I wouldn’t even rule out a 0-0 draw. I still think Haugesund’s main strength is in defence, whilst Stabaek can sometimes lack bite against sides that aren’t wide open. I would consider under 2.5 goals but have been stung by a few in this league recently so I’m happy to give it a miss.

Prediction: 1-1

Recommended bet: None

Norway Eliteserien – Kristiansund v Viking Preview (12/9/20)

Match Preview

Kristiansund were in some good form before the international break. They won 5 of their last 6 games so the two week hiatus probably came at the wrong time for them. As per usual, Christian Michelsen has done an excellent job here at KBK and they are as high as 5th in the standings. Kristiansund have only lost once at their own stadium this year and have scored the third most goals out of anyone in the league. Star man has been Amahl Pellegrino who leads the scoring charts in the Eliteserien with a whopping 15 goals! He has been totally red hot all year and capable of scoring a goal from anything. Centre back Dan Ulvestad is rated doubtful due to injury and so is midfield unit Amidou Diop.

Viking also head into this match in good form. They are unbeaten in four games and won their last two consecutively. The most recently was an excellent 3-2 victory vs Molde in which they probably played their best football of the season. One bit of bad news is that star left back Adrian Nilsen Pereira looks like being sold to Greek club PAOK and this means that Rolf Vikstol will take his place in the team. Viking haven’t been very good defensively all year but Vikstol is a big downgrade in this spot. Viking will have to lean on their attack force to get them something out of this match but the good news is that Velon Berisha has been in excellent form upfront.

I think this game is a clear over and it’s a shame the line is over 3.25. This is one of those horrible situations where I am really confident about an over but the wrong line and price offers very little value. It’s not even as if the Over 3.25 price is above the 1.90 mark. I am going to have to reluctantly refrain from betting here but I see something like a 3-2 or 3-2 home win.

Prediction: 3-1

Recommended bet: None

France Ligue 2 – Pau FC Season Preview 2020/21

Pau Defence

The goalkeeping situation doesn’t look that great. Last season they had Alexis Guendouz on loan from St Etienne but he doesn’t return this year. Instead, Pau have opted to sign ex Nantes man Alexandre Olliero. He has started matches at this level before when on loan at Niort and probably won’t be that bad but he isn’t what you’d call top class or anything close to that. Pau have reinforced at the back by adding four new players. Out wide veteran Anthony Scaramozzino adds some experience but at the age of 35 I have to question whether this is his sort of level anymore. Young Zahary has been signed on a permanent deal from Caen after he was on loan here from January onwards. Scotty Sadzoutte is on loan from Lille and I know little about this left back who can also play on the wings. Erwin Koffi was a failed product at Lorient but maybe at Ligue 2 level he can be useful. He’s a versatile player who can slot anyone on the right hand side or even midfield. Pau will hope that Mamadou Kamissoko and Damon Bansais can be good enough at this level. A key man for the newly promoted club will be Antoine Batisse who can play defensive midfield or centre back. Batisse, who is an ex Niort player is the captain here but the last time he featured in Ligue 2 he wasn’t really up to the standard. Pau won’t be disgraced but they look fairly weak defensively and there could be a few holes for the opposition to exploit.

Key players - Antoine Batisse (DM), Mamadou Kamissoko (DC)

Pau Offense

They were the highest scoring team in the National Division last season but have lost two key pieces from the offense. Both Lamine Gueye and Cheikh Tidiane Sabaly combined for a whopping 24 goals and 13 assists between them. Both now reside at Ligue 1 club Metz and leave two massive holes to fill. Pau have signed Romain Armand, a proven goalscorer at this level but he is a different type of target man striker. Nevertheless, if given the service he should find the back of the net a few times. Quite what else they have in the final third is questionable though. Ebenezer Assifuah is a new signing from Le Havre and he can be hit or miss. Playmaker Romain Bayard is an interesting player with perhaps something still to give at this level after a couple of seasons down in the National Division. Steeve Beusnard looked alright at times with Beziers in Ligue 2 but is out injured until the new year with ACL damage. To be honest, they look a bit lightweight in attack and probably lack depth.

Key players - Romain Armand (ATT), Romain Bayard (Playmaker)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Similar to fellow promoted club Dunkerque, Pau also have a new manager to lead them into Ligue 2. Bruno Irles left the club after effectively resigning. Replacing him is Didier Tholot, a man who has plenty of experience at this level but also has a history of failings. The last time Tholot was seen in action was at Nancy where he was given the boot after a torrid start to the 2018/19 campaign. Tholot is a good honest guy who will generally give things a good go. He won’t go down without a fight and generally likes to be positive if and when he can. Tholot however lacks tactical nous and has a knack of making poor decisions. Pau have a small budget, have lost two of their big attacking weapons and overall on paper probably have the worst squad in the league. They are going to be heavily involved in the relegation and from what I’ve seen in the first two matches it could be quite a struggle. They got blasted apart in the first match vs Valenciennes and knowing Tholot’s management style they will be far too open at times. Pau’s own Stadium isn’t fit for Ligue 2 purpose yet, so until January at least they will be playing their games at Le Stade du Hameau which is the rugby ground in the city. This ground has a capacity of nearly 20,000 and local authorities have been relaxed about letting in up to 8,000 for their next home game. It is interesting to see another team from the South West region of France have a team in Ligue 2. The city itself, which seems to get a stage of Le Tour de France every year is known as the gateway to the Pyrenees and maybe there will be plenty of support from the locals to see their team at this level of football. It is however going to be a struggling campaign and I would be personally surprised if they avoided relegation. They are my tip to finish bottom of the table.

Prediction:- 20th  Bottom of the table

France Ligue 2 – USL Dunkerque Season Preview 2020/21

Dunkerque Defence

Starting keeper is going to be captain Axel Maraval. He once had half a season in between the sticks for AC Arles in Ligue 1 about 5-6 years ago but this will be the first time he’s a regular at this level. Backing him up, or indeed perhaps trying to compete for the spot is new signing from relegated Orleans, Jeremy Vachoux. This looks an acceptable goalkeeping lineup to be honest. Dunkerque have also brought in centre back Alioune Ba from Orleans and he will add some experience and strength to the backline. So far, most of the defence has consisted of new players with ex Angers man Ibrahim Cisse slotting in alongside new man from Laval Adon Gomis. The good thing about Cisse is his versatility and he can play anywhere in defence. The same can be said about Demba Thiam who is the only remaining mainstay of the defence last year. Ex Red Star man Harouna Sy who has previous Ligue 2 experience under his belt seems to have settled into the left back slot. In defensive midfield it looks like Leverton Pierre could be a regular starter. He used to be a striker in his Metz days so that is an interesting conversion. One new signing I like in this area is ex Paris FC man Redouane Kerrouche. He started 33 games at this level during the 2017/18 season before floating around a few clubs. I always rated Kerrouche and was surprised Paris FC let him go. There have been a lot of new additions defensively for Dunkerque but perhaps this was wise. They have only conceded one goal in their first two games so far and on paper there is enough here to keep them competitive in my opinion.

Key players - Ibrahim Cisse (All defence), Redouane Kerrouche (DM)

Dunkerque Offense

USLD were the second highest scorers in the National Division last season bagging 42 goals. A dozen of those were netted by Mohammed Bayo who has returned back to Clermont on loan. It seems like two players I am unfamiliar with, Dimitri Boudaud and Guillaume Bosca were important men for them in the final third, weighing in with a combination of goals and assists. Boudaud is a club legend and has been with them since the 2009/10 campaign whilst Bosca was a great pickup from fellow third tier outfit Marignane. Neither player has ever featured at this level of football before though, save for Boudaud’s one appearance for Sedan many years ago. This slightly concerns me because if they were actually any good then surely someone would've signed them up at this level before now? Boudaud is 33 years old, so what is left in his tank, and Bosca is knocking on the door of 31. Dunkerque have signed Billy Ketkeophomphone who looks like an excellent pickup. It was only a few years ago he was starting matches for Angers in Ligue 1 and he can play pretty much anywhere in the final third. A strong technical and physical player, I would expect him to be a key man. Malik Tchokounte is another smart addition from Caen. Things never worked out for him there but if he can find his Paris FC scoring boots from a few years ago then he can be a major asset. There’s some backup players who are currently injured like Kevin Rocheteau and Jorris Romil who both know what it’s like at Ligue 2 level.

Key players - Billy Ketkeophomphone (All attack), Guillaume Bosca (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Dunkerque were in second place just one point above Boulogne when COVID stopped the National Division, so maybe some could say it was a fortunate promotion. They have signed a dozen new players and clearly realised they needed to reinforce in order to give them a chance at this level. I like the business they have done in the market and so far they’ve picked up 4 points from their first two games, keeping the same XI in each fixture. USLD didn’t renew the contract of coach Claude Robin, instead opting for one of their old bosses Fabien Mercadal. He has great experience both at Ligue 2 and Ligue 1 level and is a smart hire. Marcadal is a 4-2-3-1 merchant who generally has a balanced approach. Dunkerque have been ruthless with this hire and also ensuring that nearly half of their current lineup is full of new signings. They have recognised that a lot of the players they had simply weren't good enough to start matches regularly at this level. I don’t anticipate they will be too much better than a relegation battle but the reinforcements added have given them a fighting chance of avoiding the drop and they will be more than competitive. Unlike some other teams who have been promoted in recent years, USLD will be playing at their own Stade Marcel Tribut Stadium which has a capacity of 4,200. It looks like a typical sort of smaller ground which might be awkward for travelling teams and a bit of a ‘banana skin’ location. It will of course be a tough battle to stay up but don’t underestimate Dunkerque.

Prediction:- 16th Relegation battle but very competitive

France Ligue 2 – Valenciennes Season Preview 2020/21

Valenciennes Defence

VAFC had the best defensive record in the entire league last season and one of the main reasons for that was thanks to the performances of goalkeeper Jerome Prior. The ex Bordeaux man was exceptional and there have been rumours of him leaving during this transfer window. Should that happen then the club would have to act quickly. Nicolas Kocik and Hillel Konate aren’t the best of backups. Prior missed one game last season due to suspension and Valenciennes lost it 1-3 at Clermont, the most they conceded in a game all year. The backline will have one change this season. Lillian Brassier goes back to Rennes after a successful loan spell and Grenoble man Eric Vandenabeele is signed. He will be reunited with old teammate Maxime Spano who had a stellar year at the back for VA in his first season at the club. Valenciennes have strong fullback or wingback options in the form of Laurent Dos Santos, Aly Abeid and Joffrey Cuffaut. The latter is also being converted into a centre back sometimes in a three man pairing. Defensive midfield isn’t really an area of strength for VAFC. They don’t tend to employ someone in this position that often and most of their midfielders are more a creative type. They probably lack a general type of physical presence here and it can be a weak spot. Despite this, I would fully expect Valenciennes to have one of the better defensive records in the league again whilst Olivier Guegan remains as coach.

Key players - Jerome Prior (GK), Maxime Spano (DC)

Valenciennes Offense

It was quite a lean year for VAFC, only scoring 24 goals in total. Striker Teddy Chevalier had a great personal return though netting 13 times. It goes without saying he is a key man upfront for Valenciennes and the perfect sort of complete striker they need. Baptiste Gauillaume sometimes plays alongside him upfront and much more of a return is needed from him. More is needed from the wide areas in terms of creativity. Arsene Elogo and Moussa Guel are new signings who could possibly make an impact, even if its just off the bench. Valenciennes have signed two young guys on loan from Rennes in the form of Mathis Picouleau (CM) and Metehan Guclu (ATT). Unfortunately, Malek Chergui has ruptured his achilles and will be out of action for several months. Kevin Cabral could be a winger who steps up this season but in the past he’s always been far too inconsistent and flaky. There are some signs that Valenceinnes could score more goals this season and the Chevalier - Guillaume combination is quite strong upfront. However, the tendency to be negative with tactics by the coach is always a concern and definitely a possible hindrance.

Key players - Teddy Chevalier (ATT), Baptiste Guillaume (ATT)

Youngster to watch - Moussa Guel (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Valenciennes were expected to become much more disciplined under the management of Olivier Guegan and he delivered upon that promise. They had the best defensive record in the league and were very hard to break down in his 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 style formation. In terms of betting, VAFC only had 5 out of 28 games end over 2.5 goals and most of those were in the last few games. I was beginning to see more signs of Guegan willing to open up more, offering a greater threat. They hammered Pau 3-0 in the opening round this season and Valenciennes have suddenly turned Les Stade Nungesser into a fortress again. They had an excellent 7-5-2 record in front of their own fans and actually had an average attendance of nearly 8,000. They could be hit slightly by the crowd restrictions but based on that first fixture not too much will change. Valenciennes were in 7th place when COVID stopped the league last season. I see them in the top ten places again with their very solid defence being a major weapon. However, they just lack a bit of extra class and possibly goals compared to some of the other top teams who are more attack minded. This kind of limits their potential and probably why they won’t qualify for the playoffs.

Prediction: 9th Top half

France Ligue 2 – Troyes Season Preview 2020/21

Troyes Defence

Gauthier Gallon is the #1 keeper and is just an average sort of custodian at this level. He will do a decent job but is nothing special. Sebastian Renot offers good experience as backup. The defence has lost big man Kiki Kouyate who was actually their top scorer last season with five goals. He is a huge physical and aerial unit who was lethal from set pieces and they will miss his presence. Coming in as a replacement is Gabriel Mutombo from relegated side Orleans. He is actually someone I’ve always rated and he is definitely a good signing. Troyes had the best defensive record away from home last season and there are some solid and reliable players here like Yoann Salmier, Jimmy Giraudon and Oualid El Hajam. Left back could be a problem area with the departure of Pape Gueye. Youngster Stone Mambo looks like the primary starter in that position now but his skills are probably better suited to centre back. If they really want to be competing right at the top end of the Ligue 2 table then adding an elite left back would be advantageous. ESTAC are well covered in defensive midfield with the likes of Florian Tardiu, Rayan Raveloson, Rui Pires and Rominigue Kouame. The quality is there for Troyes to have a very solid base again.

Key players - Jimmy Giraudon (DC), Florian Tardieu (DM)

Youngster to watch - Remy Vita (DL)

Troyes Offense

This is definitely an area that ESTAC knew they had to work on. A total of 34 goals scored wasn’t too bad but when your top scorer is a centre back (Kouyate) with 5 goals then you know there’s some sort of problem. Troyes need at least one striker to reach double digit goals this year but the good news is that there’s enough ability to deliver. Yoann Touzghar is no spring chicken, nearly at the age of 34 but is still an excellent ‘complete forward’ type of striker who can do a lot of things well. Let's not forget he was injured for a large chunk of last season and 4 goals in 16 games was an ‘ok’ return. Hyun Jun Suk was signed in the January transfer market and only played five games. The South Korean offers a more pacey technical threat and can get in behind defences. Troyes have signed Dylan Saint Louis who was once seen as an exceptional talent back in his Laval days. He hasn’t progressed as many expected but perhaps Troyes can unleash his full potential. Probably the key player for ESTAC in attack is Maxime Barthelme. He can play pretty much anywhere in the final third but is best used on the wings where he supplied 8 assists last season. Barthelme is a very good technical player and also excellent from set pieces. They perhaps lack quality depth in other creative areas. The likes of St Louis and Suk will probably play out wide sometimes. Englisman Levi Lumeka is an interesting signing from the Portuguese 2nd division and could provide a pacey threat out on the wings as well. Lenny Pintor has been brought back on loan from Lyon. In more central areas Dylan Chambost should get more starts this season and could be one to watch in terms of development.

Key players - Yoann Touzghar (ATT), Maxime Barthelme (Winger)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Big news off the field is that ESTAC are now owned by the City group. I think we will see them getting plenty of investment into the playing squad over the next few years, although quite how soon I'm not entirely sure. The debut coaching season of Laurent Battles was a huge success. He guided Troyes to 5th position and they were hugely in the automatic promotion hunt before COVID stopped the league. Troyes can consider themselves unlucky that they never had the chance to complete the campaign but can still take plenty of positives. The weird thing was that ESTAC only had 3 draws out of 28 matches which is an exceptionally low figure for this division. They seemed to be an ‘all or nothing’ type of team and it will be interesting to see if that continues. Battles proved himself to be a decent tactician and also a strong motivator. It looks hiring him was a masterstroke and I personally think he got the maximum out of the team. Troyes look very similar this season with relatively little movement in and out of the club (so far) If their attack force can fire and score more goals from open play then there’s every reason to suggest they’ll be in the promotion hunt. Their average attendance was just over 6,000 last season so the reduced fans won’t impact them too much. Ideally they could do with a top class goalkeeper, left back and maybe another central playmaker but there is enough all round quality within this squad to compete towards the top of the table. Still with a month left and the whole of the January transfer window, I expect the City group will act by reinforcing. Troyes are one of the front runners for promotion this season because of that.

Prediction:- 2nd Automatic promotion