Ligue 1 Betting: Lyon and Marseille set to gain ground on leaders
Some of France's top sides look set to hit their stride in fine style now the transfer window's finally closed, writes James Eastham...
"Lyon have so much final-third quality it's hard to see the hosts shutting out the visitors. Between them, Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traore and Martin Terrier should successfully pick their way through Caen's back four."
Hosts to struggle without star striker
Nice v Rennes (17th v 6th)
Fri, 17:00 BST
Live on Betfair Live Football
Nice are favourites to collect all three points on Friday night yet you have to question their ability to do so given that Mario Balotelli will miss the game.
The Italy international was Nice's 18-goal top scorer last season and the team looks short not only of goalscoring quality but also confidence in their ability to compensate for his absence whenever he's out.
Injury-prone but underrated understudy Mickael Le Bihan and fellow striker Ignatius Ganago are also out. This means Allan Saint-Maximin and Myziane Maolida are set start in tandem in attack. The pair have a grand total of eight Ligue 1 goals (one goal every 776 minutes) between them.
Rennes are well-placed to capitalise. They produced their best performance of the season vs Bordeaux (2-0 win) a fortnight ago and will include deadline-day signing Hatem Ben Arfa for the first time here. The mercurial ex-PSG playmaker looks set to make his debut from the bench against the side where he played arguably the best football of his career during the 2015-16 season.
With several factors in Rennes' favour, back the visitors Draw No Bet at [2.24] or with a small start (+0&+0.5) on the Asian Handicap. For an guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.
Fekir and co. to inspire away win
Caen v Lyon (12th v 8th)
Sat, 16:00 BST
Live on Betfair Live Football
Lyon spluttered their way through the opening month of the season but are a strong selection to start climbing the table with a win on Saturday night.
Two wins and two defeats from their opening four matches is simply not good enough for Bruno Genesio's side but such is the talent in their ranks they should collect all three points on Saturday night.
Lyon have so much final-third quality it's hard to see the hosts shutting out the visitors. Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traore and Martin Terrier represent around £150 million of talent according to market prices, and between them should successfully pick their way through Caen's back four.
Caen's starting line-up is packed with decent if unremarkable players. As a team they've had the fewest touches of the ball in the penalty area this season (Lyon have had the most) and the fewest shots on goal (30). They've had the lowest share of possession (36%) and have counter-attacked only intermittently well.
The addition of Claudio Beauvue towards the end of the transfer window was a smart bit of business from Caen: the ex-Guingamp front player can operate wide or centrally and will add experience, guile and a touch of precision in the final third. Overall, however, it's difficult to see Caen avoiding defeat if the visitors play close to their potential.
Lyon are [1.73] to win on the night. If that's too short for you - as it is for us - back Lyon on the Asian Handicap at bigger odds.
More misery for Kombouare's visitors
Marseille v Guingamp (5th v 20th)
Sun, 20:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 1 and Betfair Live Football
This is where Marseille's season really starts and they're a good bet to put down a marker by winning emphatically at Stade Velodrome on Sunday night.
L'OM's August was disrupted by transfer dealings - the £30m sale of Franck Zambo Anguissa (Fulham), the arrival of Kevin Strootman from Roma for a similar fee, the aborted hunt for a world-class striker - and results and performances suffered as a consequence. After their opening-day 4-0 win over Toulouse they lost at Nimes (3-1), drew at home to Rennes (2-2) and needed a last-minute goalkeeping error to clinch a 3-2 win at Monaco in their last outing a fortnight ago.
That late victory over Monaco set them up nicely ahead of the international break, however, and there's a feeling that Marseille will come racing out of the traps now. Strootman is settling in better every day while star winger Florian Thauvin looks ready to start games after being eased back into action gently on the back of an extended holiday following France's World Cup triumph. Strikers Konstantinos Mitroglu and Valere Germain - the two players that will vie for the central attacking position in Marseille's 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations - were both on the scoresheet against Monaco.
Guingamp arrive in horrible form: they've suffered four defeats in four games since the start of the season. There was no shame in losing at St Etienne (2-1) and at home to PSG (3-1) but subsequent setbacks at Lille (3-0) and at home to Toulouse (2-1) in their two most recent outings will be of far greater concern to manager Antoine Kombouare.
Summer signings Nolan Roux and Ronny Rodelin have yet to find their feet in attack and Guingamp have Ligue 1's worst defensive record (10 goals conceded). Individually and collectively the visitors' defence will struggle to contain Thauvin, Mitroglu, Germain and Dimitri Payet.
Marseille are [1.36] to win. Good alternative selections are Marseille-Marseille on the Half Time/Full Time market at [1.85] and Marseille -1.5 Asian Handicap around the same price.
James’ 2018-19 P/L
Rennes Draw No Bet at Nice @ [2.24]
Lyon -0.5&-1.0 Asian Handicap at Caen @ [1.9]
Marseille -1.5 Asian Handicap v Rennes @ [1.85]