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French Ligue 1 Preview and Best Bets

french ligue one

Strasbourg vs Reims

Strasbourg to win – 4/7 (1.75)

Both sides have just one point between them and have not enjoyed the start to the season each desired. For Strasbourg, there has been obvious frustration because they have played fairly well in both games. They looked like drawing vs Monaco in the first round but were denied a late equaliser by VAR which was a really close call. Last week they managed to draw 1-1 vs Nice but were continually thwarted by Kasper Schmeichel who made several good saves to deny Les Alsatians. Strasbourg had an xG of 1.57 in that game, but it felt like even more considering the quality of some of the saves they faced. It has been a relatively quiet summer on the transfer front for Strasbourg. Probably their biggest loss was defender Frederic Guilbert who went back to Aston Villa after a successful loan spell. The permanent addition of centre back Lucas Perrin and reinforcing with right back Ronael Pierre Gabriel look like smart acquisitions. In attack, the trio of Ajorque, Gameiro and Diallo remain for now despite several clubs linked with Ajorque’s signature.

Reims travel here with no points and having conceded eight goals in their first two games. This is not typical of the side who were very hard to break down last season and known for their strong defensive performances. There are several early problems which need to be addressed. The loss of goalkeeper Pedrag Rajkovic already looks like a massive one. He excelled on debut for Spanish side Real Mallorca and was one of the major reasons why Reims were so hard to score on. New Austrian keeper Patrick Pentz already looks like an immediate downgrade. The transfer saga of key centre back Wout Faes is also hindering the club. He scored an own goal vs Marseille in the first match and his head looked in the clouds. Faes is heavily linked with a £12m move to Italian club Torino and they need to get that move sorted so all parties can move on. Their top right back Thomas Foket has been injured and new signing Emmanuel Agbadou got sent off last week vs Clermont. He will be suspended here as Reims attempt to rebound from a 2-4 defeat.

The visitors appear to be quite soft at the moment and not in a good phase. That could change as the season progresses, but this looks like an excellent time for Strasbourg to face them and obtain their first victory of the season. There is no doubt that the home side have been playing better football so far and simply backing them straight on the nose to win at 1.75 is the best bet. This is a team that finished in the top six last season and should be able to assert themselves vs an out of sorts Reims defence.

Angers vs Brest

Both teams to score – 4/7 (1.75)

Both teams picked up draws last week from a losing position so will be eager to kick on here. Angers remain unbeaten after a 0-0 draw vs Nantes and then a 2-2 draw away to Auxerre. The first round vs Nantes was a freak stalemate as both goalkeepers Paul Bernardoni and Albin Lafont excelled in between the sticks. The xG for that game was 1.92 vs 1.15, so quite how it ended 0-0 was an absolute mystery. Angers looked like losing vs Auxerre but came from 0-2 down to rescue a point. They struggled against Auxerre set pieces and some of their defending has been less than convincing this season. It must be said that Angers have probably started the campaign better in performance terms compared to how many expected though. Gerald Baticle’s side were hotly tipped for relegation but could argue they deserve to have six points on the board. They have outgunned their opponents twice in xG terms but only picked up two points. It was interesting to note that their key attacker Sofiane Boufal came off the bench last week for 20 mins following an injury. He could be in line to potentially start this fixture which would be a major boost. 

Brest were badly outplayed in their first match of the season, losing 2-3 away to Lens. The scoreline might look close but for the large majority of that contest they were under serious pressure. They were outgunned 3.32 to 1.04 on xG in that fixture but rebounded well vs Marseille last week. The final score was 1-1 but Brest were the better team, certainly in the second half when they will feel they should have won the match. The Brittany outfit had an xG of 2.24 in that game and can blame the likes of Jeremy Le Douaron and Irvan Cardona who missed some big chances. Playmaker Youcef Belaili came on at half time and had a significant impact on the match with his technical quality. Brest can be a difficult side to predict and are capable of blowing hot or cold, but the defence looks unreliable right now and they have been especially vulnerable from set pieces.

This should be a good game of football between two teams who will try to win. It feels like a fairly offensive fixture, and I think both teams to score is the best bet. There is also a good chance of over 2.5 goals landing in this match. I think taking BTTS makes more sense though because it covers the 1-1 draw which can’t be ruled out at this early stage of the season. Odds of 1.75 appear good enough for this bet when you consider the fact that neither team has kept a clean sheet yet and have a combined xG of 6.25 between them.

Montpellier vs Auxerre

Both teams to score – 4/5 (1.80)

Both sides have been involved in some high scoring contests so far this season and there is very little to suggest that will change here. Montpellier won their first fixture 3-2 vs Troyes. It was a wild game of football with several chances at both ends. Montpellier have good offensive strength with players such as Elye Wahi and Teji Savanier in their ranks but are not looking good defensively. Manager Olivier Dall’Oglio pretty much admitted they had issues in that area which need to be solved. He surprisingly dropped centre back Mamadou Sakho, reportedly because of poor form or an internal disciplinary matter. Youngster Enzo Tchato has been playing at right back and scored a good goal vs PSG last week, but he looks a bit raw and adapting to a new positional role. Montpellier know that they cannot rely on themselves to keep a clean sheet so there is a focus on attacking football. Wahbi Khazri is a smart addition from St Etienne, and they have good options going forward. Montpellier unsurprisingly lost 2-5 vs PSG last week but at least they offered something in the final third and hitting the back of the net twice should give them some confidence. 

Auxerre got their first point of the season last week thanks to a 2-2 draw vs Angers. They will feel like they should have won the match though considering they were 2-0 up after less than 15 mins. They lost their first fixture 1-4 vs Lille and defensive issues will likely plague this team for most of the season, mostly due to their tactical style but also personnel. Defender Theo Pellenard, who was one of their best players in Ligue 2 last season is ruled out for the whole campaign due an ACL injury sustained in a friendly match. They have recently brought in Gideon Mensah on loan from RB Salzburg, but he looked terrible last year whilst at Bordeaux and has a lot to prove. The manager Jean-Marc Furlan is known for being an attack minded manager and he loves technical players who can pass the ball around. Auxerre will be a good team to watch but won’t always be pragmatic. They have decent attacking options at least and recently reinforced by adding Nottingham Forest man Nuno Da Costa, who should go well in Ligue 1. Big target man striker Gaetan Charbonnier is always a threat, and another new signing M’Baye Niang from Bordeaux could be useful if he can re-discover his form from a few years ago. Right winger Lassine Sinayoko is suspended for this match after getting sent off last week.

There are several different betting options which catch the eye for this match. It is obvious that goals should logically be scored here so over 2.5 at 1.95 is certainly worth considering. I think a safer option is to take both teams to score though, just in case the 1-1 draw was to occur. It is difficult to see either team keeping a clean sheet here considering the state of each respective defence. There is likely to be plenty of chances at both ends and the strength of each team is definitely going forwards. There is even the possibility that this could result in a wild 3-3 type of affair and seriously blow up with goals. At very least, both teams should hit the back of the net.

Lille vs Paris Saint-Germain

Over 2.5 goals – 1/2 (1.50)

Both sides have started the season well and this should be an entertaining contest at Le Stade Pierre-Mauroy. Lille have four points on the board after beating Auxerre 4-1 and then drawing 1-1 away to Nantes last week. They will feel they should have won the match but came up against inspired goalkeeper Albin Lafont who made a string of excellent saves. The xG numbers in that fixture last week were 2.08 vs 2.53 and it was only a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping which prevented over 2.5 goals from hitting. Lille had a miserable campaign last year in defence of their Ligue 1 crown, only finishing in 10th place and that was enough for the club to sack Jocelyn Gourvennec as manager. Replacing him has been the former Porto, Shakhtar and Roma boss Paolo Fonseca. He revealed much more attacking plans for the team this season and the early signs are that he will live up to his promise. Lille swept aside Auxerre 4-1 in the first round and looked strong going forward last week in Nantes. Key man Jonathan David is of course a major weapon and the addition of Clermont striker Mohamed Bayo for £14m has reinforced their frontline.

PSG are the only remaining side in Ligue 1 with a 100% record. They have smashed Clermont 5-0 and beaten Montpellier 5-2. It is no surprise to see them top of the standings and new manager Christophe Galtier has made an encouraging start in charge. His 3-4-3 system seems to be suiting the players very well and PSG are actually looking quite entertaining so far under his regime. Players such as Neymar and Lionel Messi appear to be enjoying their football. Kylian Mbappe was in the headlines this week for his missed penalty and a sulky attitude. Reportedly, he and Neymar have had ‘clear the air’ talks surrounding the penalty taking duties at the club and sorted out their differences. All of them will be hungry to score goals and maintain this strong start to the season. PSG have the highest xG in the league with their 7.46 miles clear of the next nearest side. They have scored some very low xG goals as you would expect, but also been creating a ton of big opportunities.

This will be PSG’s toughest test so far this season and that is why they can be backed as big as 1.44 to win. It would be a surprise if this didn’t result in an away victory because they are firing on all cylinders and Lille don’t really have the defensive capabilities to deal with them. I am a big fan of taking over 2.5 goals in this fixture. The price is only 1.50 but this looks a very safe and confident selection. PSG could of course cover this line on their own, but Lille have enough offensive weapons to get on the scoresheet themselves. PSG did concede two goals vs Montpellier last week and Lille arguably have some better quality attackers such as Jonathan David. This match has all the makings of being quite high scoring and there should be at least three goals scored.

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