Marseille – Caen – Saturday 20.00 GMT
It is a completely different Marseille that will start its season on Saturday at home against Caen. Gignac, Imbula, Payet, Fanni, Morel and Ayew have all left during the summer and it is a new era starting at the Stade Velodrome.
L’OM replaced those key players by some younger ones, all chosen by Marcelo Bielsa. The Argentine coach is still in charge after a fascinating first year. He took Ligue 1 by storm even if his team faded after six months and missed out on a Champions League qualification. But the manager is ready for the new campaign. He is very happy with his new young talents recruited so far this summer (Rekik, Manquillo, Sarr, Nkoudou, Ocampos) and Marseille have also gambled on two French international midfielders who have not played for a while: Abou Diaby and Lassana Diarra. Diaby is not fit yet and Diarra is continuing his physical preparations so should not be in the squad, and neither will Manquillo.
The Stade Velodrome will be full in a fantastic atmosphere and the home side, in its usual 3-3-3-1 formation, will count on Michy Batshuayi up front to follow in the steps of Gignac. Florian Thauvin needs to finally justify his move to the club after two very average seasons while Romain Alessandrini looked good in preseason.
Defensively, Marseille struggled at times last year and Bielsa will be hoping that the arrival of Rekik will make his defence more solid. Marseille are big favourites in this game but they will have to be careful, as Caen won at the Velodrome last season (3-2).
The visitors shocked l’OM with a great performance and took advantage of their sloppy defence. They know how to win in Marseille and they will try to reproduce the same display on Saturday. They also lost some important players in Kanté and Lemar but they bought well too (Delort, Delaplace, Bessat, Ben Youssef).
They will play on the counter like they did last season to destabilise their opponent. But Marseille are ready. They beat Juventus (2-0) last weekend in their last preseason game and they will win this game easily.
The odds are massively in favour of Marseille with a home win at 1.58. A draw is at 3.80 and an away win for Caen is at 6.25.
Mickey Batshuayi is favourite to score first at 5.60. My best tip is Marseille to win and both teams to score at 3.30.
Score prediction: Marseille 3 Caen 1 at 15.00
Nice – Monaco – Saturday 20.00 GMT
This is the first derby of the season, on Saturday evening at the Allianz Riviera Stadium. The two clubs and the two sets of fans hate each other and it should be a spectacular encounter.
Let’s start with Monaco who are already in good form. They won easily in their Champions League 3rd round qualifier against Young Boys Bern (7-1 on aggregate). They have great momentum and are ready for the start of the Ligue 1 season.
Two key players left the club in Kondogbia and Ferreira-Carrasco but Monaco have had an impressive transfer window so far to comply with their philosophy. They signed young and promising players (Cavaleiro, Pasalic, El-Shaarawy, Carrillo, Traoré, Bahlouli, Lemar) that they hope will develop and shine very quickly. They managed to keep their prodigy, striker Anthony Martial and their playmaker Bernardo Silva while they also still have a lot of experience with Toulalan, Ricardo Carvalho, Raggi or Subasic. Even Abdennour, who was so impressive at the back in their Champions League campaign last season, is still at the club.
Leonardo Jardim was very happy with the two wins against Young Boys and he is convinced Monaco will not repeat their disastrous start of last season (two defeats and a draw in the first three league games). The team from the Principality will offer a more offensive brand of football than last year but will stay very solid at the back in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation.
They have scored goals for fun this summer so far. Martial will be the main man up front but there is big competition for places offensively with El Shaarawy, who arrived on loan from Milan, Cavaleiro, signed from Benfica or Carrillo (from Estudiantes).
It is an exciting time at Monaco but it is also an exciting time at Nice. After a tough season with fans troubles and disappointing results, the club has invested this summer. They recruited Hatem Ben Arfa (who could not join six months earlier because he had already played for two clubs during the season), Valère Germain from Monaco and got Plea back from his loan at Guingamp.
They will form the front three with pace and skills and have showed great understanding already in preseason. They will be a threat. But Nice also lost Amavi (Aston Villa), Bautheac (Lille) and Carlos Eduardo (Porto) and they will be missed.
Defensively, the team could struggle too this season with no real left-back and an inexperienced centre half in Le Marchand, who arrived from Ligue 2. But they will put up a fight against Monaco on Saturday. However, I think that Monaco will be too strong.
The odds are in favour of Monaco with an away win at 2.18. A draw is at 3.25 and a Nice home win is at 3.40.
Anthony Martial is favourite to score first at 6.10. My best tip is over 3.5 goals to be scored at 4.70.
Score prediction: Nice 1 Monaco 3 at 25.00