PSG vs Lille: Tense thriller in store at top of Ligue 1 table

PSG and Brazil forward Neymar
Neymar is set for his first appearance in nearly two months

Saturday afternoon's encounter will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this season's title race in France, writes James Eastham...

"Six of PSG's eight games against sides currently in the top six and five of Lille's seven matches against the same group of opponents this season have featured fewer than three goals."

Best Bet: Back PSG vs Lille Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.9520/21

PSG vs Lille
Sat, 16:00 BST
Live on BT Sport Extra 3 and Betfair Live Video

Neymar ready to return for hosts

The top two in Ligue 1 go head-to-head this weekend in what looks like an early title decider.

PSG and Lille are tied together on 63 points at the top of the table as they prepare to face-off at Parc des Princes on Saturday afternoon.

PSG are 1.758/11 favourites, with Lille 5.69/2 and The Draw 4.03/1. At first glance, those odds look about right.

Yet there are several key factors to take into account ahead of the season's most eagerly-awaited fixture in France's top flight.

The first is team news. For PSG, Marco Verratti is ruled out by injury, and two or three other important players may be rested.

Paris face Bayern Munich in their Champions League quarter-final first leg in Germany next Wednesday. Manager Mauricio Pochettino will have that game in his thoughts when he names his team to take on Lille.

Neymar will be fit and is a contender to start. It would be his first appearance since February 10 and a huge boost for the hosts to have him back.

Fatigue a factor for Lille

Another factor is the recent international break and the negative impact that this might have on Lille rather than Paris.

For the visitors, Mike Maignan, Sven Botman, Jose Fonte (pictured below), Renato Sanches, Jonathan Ikone and Burak Yilmaz all represented their countries, while regular right-back Zeki Celik has been ruled out by a positive covid-19 test.

That means that seven of Lille's expected Starting XI are either unavailable or have just returned to the club's Luchin training base.

Paris have had fewer players away than usual and are more familiar with the process of welcoming back squad members for important domestic matches after international camps.

The imminent Champions League encounter against Bayern shouldn't prove too much of an obstacle for PSG, either.

Paris' record in league fixtures immediately before Champions League encounters this season is an excellent W6-D1-L1.

Of greater concern to PSG, though, will be their poor Ligue 1 record vs fellow top-four sides this season.

In such matches - i.e. fixtures against Lille, Lyon and Monaco - PSG's record is a dismal W1-D1-L3, including a 0-0 draw when these sides met in Lille on December 20.

PSG's problems against their direct rivals are well-documented although it's worth noting that this trend appears to have run its course.

In their two most recent encounters against top-four rivals PSG blew away an admittedly under-strength Lille when the sides met in the Coupe de France on March 17 (3-0 win), and then produced arguably their best league display of the season to run out 4-2 winners at Lyon in their final outing before the international break on March 21.

jose_fonte_2021.jpg

Low goals the smart selection

PSG's recent improvement will make Lille wary and the Christophe Galtier's players would undoubtedly take a draw. The visitors have great faith in their defensive ability and a cautious approach is likely.

Goalkeeper Maignan - a PSG academy graduate - has been arguably Ligue 1's best between the posts this season and centre-backs Fonte and Botman have been sensational.

Lille's formidable away record is another reason the visitors will head to the French capital with quiet confidence.

Lille are W4-D1-L0 from their last five away trips and have the division's best away record over the course of the season (W9-D4-L1).

Taking all factors into account, our top selection on the game is to back Under 2.5 Goals.

Thirty of 60 games (50%) involving these two sides this season have had Under 2.5 Goals. The same applies to 15 of their 29 (52%) combined home (PSG) and away (Lille) fixtures.

These stats suggest odds of around evens are correct. Clashes among the elite paint a different picture, however.

Three of PSG's five games vs top-four rivals have had Under 2.5 Goals, and the same applies to six of their eight fixtures vs current top-six sides.

Lille's games against the best have been similarly low-scoring: five of their seven fixtures vs current top-six sides have featured Under 2.5 Goals.

Meanwhile a trading recommendation during the game would be to back late goals.

Fifty-one of 88 goals (58%) in league games involving PSG this season have been scored after half-time, with 21 (24%) of those goals coming in the final 15 minutes of matches.

As a variation on the theme, consider laying early goals, because there have been so few in games involving these two sides this season.

Just nine of 88 goals in PSG's matches and only six of 69 goals in Lille's league games (10% of the combined total) have been scored in the opening 15 minutes of matches.

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James’ 2020-21 P/L

Staked: 82pts
Returned: +76.02pts
P/L: -5.98pts

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