Ligue 1 Betting: Fabregas and returning saviour Jardim to drive Monaco revival
Things are looking up for the team that won the French title just two seasons ago, writes James Eastham...
"In Leonardo Jardim's first game back in charge last weekend Monaco beat Toulouse 2-1 and posted their best performance of the season."
Caen the better pick in basement battle
Amiens vs Caen (19th vs 17th)
Sat, 19:00 GMT
Live on Betfair Live Video
There will be some serious tension in the air at Stade de la Licorne on Saturday night as these relegation rivals face off. Amiens and Caen's only ambition this season is avoiding the drop so there will be plenty of nerves when the two sides take to the pitch.
There's nothing to pick between the pair in the standings - they're on 18 points each - so it makes little sense that Amiens are such strong favourites, especially as Caen have a game in hand. The hosts are [2.16] to win, with Caen [4.3] and The Draw [3.2].
Amiens have won just three of their 11 home matches, drawing once and losing seven times. This poor record further underlines that their chances of collecting all three points appear overrated. Amiens are also on a dreadful run of form: they've lost nine of their last 11 games (W0-D2-L9) in all competitions against sides currently above them in Ligue 1 and have scored just once in their last five Ligue 1 outings.
Caen have a little more experience and know-how in their squad. Fabien Mercadal's side have avoided defeat in six of their 11 away games to date (W1-D5-L5). They ought to be quietly confident of travelling back to Normandy having picked up something from this encounter.
Monaco on the up
Montpellier vs Monaco (5th vs 18th)
Sun, 14:00 GMT
Live on BT Sport ESPN and Betfair Live Video
Leonardo Jardim returned last month for his second spell as Monaco manager and there were signs last weekend of an immediate positive impact. In the Portuguese's first Ligue 1 game back in charge Monaco ran out 2-1 winners over Toulouse, posting their best performance of the season.
You only have to look through the Monaco side that beat Toulouse for evidence why their 18th position in the Ligue 1 table is in some ways misleading. Danijel Subasic was in goal, Rony Lopes on the flank and Radamel Falcao led the attack. In midfield, Aleksandr Golovin and January signing Cesc Fabregas scored a goal each and posted the type of high-class individual performances we know they're capable of.
Given the quality and depth of talent in their squad there's no reason why Monaco - Ligue 1 champions as recently as 2017 - cannot put together a run of good results. They're [3.2] underdogs this weekend, throwing up an excellent opportunity to back them in the Draw No Bet or Asian Handicap markets.
Montpellier are difficult to beat - only PSG have lost fewer games this season - and manager Michel Der Zakarian has transformed them into genuine European contenders. Yet they've won just five of 11 home matches and will find the newly-improved Monaco difficult to handle.
European rivals difficult to split
Rennes vs St Etienne (10th vs 4th)
Sun, 16:00 GMT
Live on BT Sport Extra 2 and Betfair Live Video
This promises to be one of the weekend's more entertaining games and pits European contenders against each other. Rennes and St Etienne are looking to take advantage of the fact that the top of the table is in flux behind PSG to claim a top-six finish.
Individually and collectively there's little to pick between the teams: top-class attackers such as Ismaila Sarr (Rennes) and Wahbi Khazri (St Etienne) will be on show, while there'll also be plenty of defensive experience in the form of Damien Da Silva (Rennes) and Loic Perrin (St Etienne). Rennes will also be hopeful that Hatem Ben Arfa can light up the game after the ex-France and PSG playmaker caught the eye during their 2-1 French Cup win over Lille on Wednesday night with some moments of typically outrageous skill.
St Etienne are the better bet, as they're big outsiders and it's hard to know why. Rennes are [2.16] to collect all three points while St Etienne are [3.6], yet Rennes have won just five of 11 home games (W5-D3-L3) and St Etienne have avoided defeat in seven of their 11 away games (W2-D5-L4). St Etienne's away record is an even more impressive W2-D5-L1 if you discount defeats to the three sides (PSG, Lille, Lyon) currently above them in the table. For a guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.
James' 2018-19 P/L
Lay Amiens at home to Caen @ [2.2]
Monaco Draw No Bet at Montpellier @ [2.3]
St Etienne +0&+0.5 Asian Handicap at Rennes @ [2.04]