St Etienne can move on from the sale of Wesley Fofana while memories of Lyon's run to the Champions League semi-finals are fading fast, writes James Eastham...
"Manager Claude Puel has made some bold decisions to create a youthful St Etienne side and even without departing £30 million centre-back Wesley Fofana the visitors ought to be strong enough to avoid defeat."
Youthful visitors set to impress
Lens vs St Etienne (6th vs 4th)
Sat, 16:00 BST
Live on BT Sport Extra and Betfair Live Video
These two sides have served up terrific entertainment during the opening weeks of the season - but of the two St Etienne are clearly the better bet this weekend.
Following their promotion from Ligue 2 Lens have exceeded expectations by picking up 10 points from their opening five matches yet the Sang et Or are still too short at 11/102.1 to earn a further three points this weekend.
Franck Haise's hosts will have their work cut out versus a youthful St Etienne side that have good energy levels all over the pitch. St Etienne manager Claude Puel (pictured below) has made some bold decisions - such as banishing the likes of Ryad Boudebouz and Wahbi Khazri to the stands while promoting untested youngsters Aimen Moueffek and Mahdi Camara into the first-team - and even without departing £30 million centre-back Wesley Fofana the visitors ought to avoid defeat.
St Etienne have a ready-made replacement for Leicester City-bound Fofana in former Middlesbrough man Harold Moukoudi and, while Moukoudi may not be in the same class as Fofana, he's good enough to perform solidly alongside Thimothee Kolodziejczak at the heart of les Verts' defence. At the other end of the field St Etienne are not especially prolific, yet the pace and movement of front three Romain Hamouma, Arnaud Nordin and Denis Bouanga will cause problems for all but Ligue 1's very best teams.
Lens' danger man is Ignatius Ganago, a £5.4 million summer signing from Nice who has already started repaying that investment in fine style. Ably assisted by one-time Chelsea playmaker Gael Kakuta, Ganago has four goals from his opening five games and will be one to watch not only this weekend but for the remainder of the season.
You can make a case for Lens being narrow favourites but their odds of 11/102.1 look too short and St Etienne offer better value at 4.1. In what promises to be a tight game, backing St Etienne on the Asian Handicap or Draw No Bet markets would be smart pick.
In both instances you can support the visitors at bigger than evens. For a full guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.
A chance to oppose overrated Lyon
Lyon vs Marseille (11th vs 9th)
Sun, 20:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 1 and Betfair Live Video
Lyon are too short at 8/111.75 to win this weekend, throwing up good opportunities to oppose the hosts and support visitors Marseille instead.
Memories of Lyon's magnificent run to the Champions League semi-finals two months ago are fading fast as 'OL' have made a poor start to the 2020-21 Ligue 1 season. Manager Rudi Garcia is facing problems on and off the pitch.
Lyon are stuck in mid-table having picked up just six points from their opening five matches of the campaign and their run of uninspiring performances includes goalless draws against Bordeaux and Nimes and a 2-1 defeat at Montpellier.
As we head into the final days of the transfer window ongoing speculation surrounding a number of Lyon's better players - notably Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele - is proving a distraction and has contributed to the side's decidedly shaky start to the season.
Marseille have two more points on the board even though Andre Villas-Boas' side have yet to hit their stride and shortcomings in the final third have been apparent in most of their matches.
Yet Marseille have already chalked up a morale-boosting 1-0 win over PSG and man for man have nothing to fear from Lyon if you compare the standard of the two sides' performances to date. Lyon have players performing below their best, who may burst into life at any moment, but Marseille have potential match-winners of their own in Florian Thauvin and Dimitri Payet.
The fact that there's so little between the teams makes a mockery of Lyon's odds-on price and throws up good opportunities to support the visitors. A lay of the hosts is tempting, while those feeling more cautious may look to back Marseille with a +0.5&+1.0 Asian Handicap start.
With the Asian Handicap selection, you'll make a profit if Marseille win or the game ends all-square, and lose only half your stakes if Marseille lose by a single goal.
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James’ 2020-21 P/L
Back St Etienne +0&+0.5 Asian Handicap at Lens @ 6/52.2
Lay Lyon at home to Marseille @ 4/51.8