After two winners from two selections last weekend, James Eastham picks out the best bets ahead of this weekend's fixtures in France's top flight...
"In drawing 1-1 vs PSG last weekend, Lyon played well enough to suggest they can climb from their current mid-table position as the second-half of the season unfolds."
Best Bet: Back Lyon to win at Troyes @ 1.910/11
Sorry St Etienne to struggle again
St Etienne vs Lens (20th vs 6th)
Sat, 16:00 GMT
Live on Betfair Live Video
Lens travel to St Etienne with a full squad for this fixture on Saturday afternoon and are a good bet to come away with all three points.
The league table underlines the gulf in class between the two sides - Lens are 14 places and 18 points above St Etienne in the standings - and there are several other reasons to confidently support Lens this weekend.
With a full squad for this game, Lens manager Franck Haise has good options all over the pitch. This is particularly the case in attack, where five good players - Gael Kakuta, David Pereira da Costa, Wesley Said, Florian Sotoca and Arnaud Kalimuendo - are competing for three slots in the starting line-up. And, just behind these five on the pitch, ex-Fulham man Seko Fofana has developed into one of Ligue 1's best all-round midfielders this season.
St Etienne will be below-strength this weekend. No.1 goalkeeper Etienne Green is ruled out, as is striker Wahbi Khazri, on duty for Tunisia at the African Nations Cup. Easily their most dangerous player this season, Khazri has scored seven (41%) of St Etienne's meagre tally of 17 league goals.
St Etienne sacked Claude Puel last month but it's debatable whether the change of manager will improve the team's fortunes. Pascal Dupraz is the new boss, but Dupraz failed to impress in his last post at Ligue 2 Caen.
Lack of home support will be a further blow for St Etienne this weekend. The French government has temporarily imposed attendance limits of 5,000 at all outdoor sporting events in an attempt to reduce the spread of covid. Ordinarily St Etienne would have attracted five times as many fans for this fixture. The eerie atmosphere will do little to improve the hosts' hopes of upsetting the odds.
All things considered, Lens are a strong recommendation to collect all three points at 2.111/10.
Lucas Paqueta to inspire Lyon win
Troyes vs Lyon (16th vs 11th)
Sun, 16:05 GMT
Live on BT Sport ESPN and Betfair Live Video
Lyon look a smart bet to build on an encouraging performance against PSG last weekend by earning an important victory this weekend.
Lyon drew 1-1 (home) vs the champions and will believe they deserved a little more from the game. Set-up in the 3-4-3 formation that manager Peter Bosz introduced shortly before the winter break, Lyon played well enough to suggest they can climb from their current mid-table position as the second-half of the season unfolds.
Lucas Paqueta scored Lyon's goal against PSG last weekend, and continues to prove he's one of Ligue 1's best players. Fellow Brazil international Bruno Guimaraes supplied the assist, displaying the vision and technique that has reportedly made him a target for Arsenal during the current transfer window.
Attacking duo Karl Toko Ekambi (who scored twice for Cameroon on Thursday) and Islam Slimani are on African Nations Cup duty, but Lyon have the depth and quality to pick up points without the pair.
Hosts Troyes are one of Ligue 1's more limited sides. They made a bold decision by sacking manager Laurent Batlles last month. The new boss is Bruno Irles, the highly-rated former Monaco youth academy manager. Irles has done an excellent job in France's second and third divisions but this is the first time he's worked in the top flight.
Away from home, Lyon ought to enjoy a little more of the space that their better technical players enjoy. Troyes will also be hamstrung by a lack of support: a nationwide attendance limit of 5,000 has been set as part of a raft of anti-covid measures. Normally Troyes would have expected three times as many fans for the visit of one of Ligue 1's top sides.
Troyes are 4.47/2 to win, with Lyon 1.910/11 and The Draw 4.216/5. As those odds, we're happy to support the visitors to claim all three points.
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JAMES’ 2021-22 P/L