Reims v Monaco
Monaco have endured a difficult start to the season, and there is no guarantee that it will get any better when they visit Reims in Champagne on Sunday.
Philippe Clement’s side have managed to raise their game to face the big teams, hence a draw against PSG and victories over Nice and Lyon, but when it comes to facing more mundane opposition, they are struggling. This was perfectly illustrated on Thursday as they lost 1-0 at home against Ferencvaros in the Europa League, despite fielding a full-strength squad.
There appears to be tension in the Monaco squad, too. Captain Wissam Ben Yedder has not started either of the last two league matches, and his body language is not good. He was catastrophic when given the opportunity to play in midweek.
Reims, meanwhile, have a habit of making life difficult for the bigger teams. They have scored home draws against Lyon and Lens already this season – and both were amply deserved. Furthermore, their record against Monaco is excellent. They won 2-1 in the principality when the sides met in February, and they have lost only two of the last 10 between the clubs.
Equally, this is a fixture that has historically been a low-scoring affair. The last five games between these sides in Reims have produced a total of just three goals in total.
Expect the home side to make life even more uncomfortable for Clement and his bedraggled band from Monaco on Sunday.
Clermont v ESTAC
Goals are likely to be at a premium between Clermont and Troyes when the sides meet on Sunday, with both becoming notably tighter in recent weeks.
From Clermont’s perspective, this has come about thanks to a greater understanding in their defence. They have switched to playing three central defenders in their last three matches and in these encounters they have conceded just a single goal in Marseille. Having signed a raft of new players this summer to bolster their rearguard, it appears they have found their optimum solution at the back.
Going forward, though, Clermont are still seeking answers. They have scored just six goals in seven games and after a scoreless draw against Strasbourg last weekend, there appears to be little prospect of a rapid change in fortunes.
Troyes, meanwhile, started the season an open and expansive team but have retreated into their shells somewhat over the last couple of matches. Although still using the same system, they have not been as offensive against Rennes and Lens.
Clermont come into this game with four of their last five matches having produced under 2.5 goals, while each of Troyes’ last two have failed to reach that mark. When these sides met last season, meanwhile, there was limited goalmouth action. Clermont won the first match 2-0 at home then went to Troyes in April and picked up a 1-0 success.
Judging by the recent attitude of both teams, this game is likely to be similarly tight.
Nantes v Lens
Frank Haise was linked with a move to Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion this week as the Frenchman’s unbeaten exploits are starting to be rightly recognized outside of France and Ligue 1. The trip to Nantes comes as Les Canaris return from a long trip to Azerbaijan which saw them lose in emphatic fashion (3-0).
The Sang & Or are still storming Ligue 1, extending their unbeaten start to the season against Troyes last Friday (1-0). They have had a whole weeks’ preparation in advance for this fixture – compared to a quick two-day turnaround for FC Nantes, with a round-trip to Azerbaijan racking up just over 8,000km this week. Most of Nantes’ starters featured in the loss, and this will have a big impact on the way manager Antoine Kombouaré will set up against Lens, which changes to be expected.
Freshness and confidence aren’t the only advantages that Lens will hold over Nantes – their tactical setup is certain to threaten once again in Ligue 1. Captain Seko Fofana was on the bench against Troyes and looks to be knocking on the door for a start against Nantes. His attacking runs and pace-setting passing rhythm will add to an already dynamic midfield which is held down by 22-year-old Salis Abdul Samed. This will help act as a springboard for Lens’ dangerous wingbacks and the attacking threat of Florian Sotoca and Löis Openda as a front two which could really trouble a Nantes defense which has already shipped 11 goals in their opening seven games. It’s hard not to envisage Lens further extending their impressive unbeaten run.
Lyon v PSG
Paris Saint-Germain travel to Lyon on Sunday after a difficult away Champions League fixture against Israeli side Maccabi Haifa which the Parisians won 3-1 thanks to goals from the star-studded trio of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé, and Neymar after initially going a goal behind. Christophe Galtier’s side are once again hoping to impose themselves on Ligue 1 with their unbeaten run – against a Lyon side that have lost the last two games, with manager Peter Bosz now under pressure from the club’s hierarchy.
PSG’s transition to a 3-4-3 is bringing positive results for Christophe Galtier – with a resurgent Neymar leading the way, in both the attacker’s intensity, and goalscoring record nearing double figures only nine games in. He will be effective at finishing the inevitable chances that will come his way – having outscored his expected goals rating of 4.8 by scoring on seven occasions in Ligue 1.
Lyon’s defense should be worried about the Brazilian, but they could take advantage of several changes that could be made in PSG’s midfield – Fabian Ruiz and Carlos Soler could be set for more gametime alongside Renato Sanches. Their own midfield is arguably more settled, with Johann Lepenant the young shining light who will aim to retain the ball as much as possible against a dangerous – yet sometimes erratic PSG midfield. Lyon’s front three of Lacazette, Tête, and Toko Ekambi are also potentially threatening – but the Parisian defense has looked watertight on many occasions after the switch to a back three which includes a Sergio Ramos who is back to his gritty best.
All in all, the Parisians should have enough to edge out a recently struggling Lyon side which has shown glimpses of quality in matches this season.
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