Bastia v Monaco, Friday 7.45pm
Three days before their trip to Manchester City in the Champions League last 16 first leg, Monaco travel to Bastia on Friday evening, just across the sea. The players’ minds will be already thinking about the huge clash with City, there is no doubt about that, but Monaco can’t afford to drop points either against a team only ranked 19th in the table at the moment.
The title race with PSG is really tense for Monaco, who are only three points clear of the Parisians at the top. Leonardo Jardim, the Monaco manager, has only Raggi suspended and Boschilia injured. Everybody else is in the squad even if Djibril Sidibé should be rested and will start on the bench. Kylian Mbappé, on incredible run of form at the moment after his hat-trick last weekend, should be on the bench too.
But Monaco will field a very strong team in their usual 4-4-2 formation. This is a big derby and there is a lot of tension between the two clubs every time they play against each other. Bastia are struggling at the moment. They need a win desperately. They are 19th in the table and their form has been terrible of late. Their manager François Ciccolini is under huge pressure. And he has a lot of key players missing with Cahuzac and Saint Ruf suspended.
On top of that, Saint-Maximin – Bastia’s best player this season – can’t play because he is only on loan from Monaco and Squillaci and Crivelli are both injured as well. So Bastia could go five at the back to be very solid defensively and go for a draw at least. I don’t think they will be able to stop Monaco’s attack though even if I don’t think the visitors will score their usual three goals per game.
The odds are massively in favour of Monaco with an away win at 1.45. A draw is at 4.50 and a Bastia home win is at 7.00.
Radamel Falcao is favourite to score first at 3.70. My best tip is Monaco to win without conceding a goal at 2.25.
Score prediction: Bastia 0 Monaco 1 (6.75)
Marseille v Rennes, Saturday 4pm
Marseille’s inconsistant season continued last weekend with a defeat away at Nantes (3-2). At least, l’OM will be at home this weekend as they host Rennes on Saturday afternoon. They have a great record at home this season in the league and it is very positive that they will play at the Stade Vélodrome.
However, as well as losing at Nantes, they also lost their best player this season in Bafetimbi Gomis who hurt his knee in that match. It is a huge blow as he has scored 14 league goal already this season and Marseille don’t have another proper centre forward in their squad. Manager Rudi Garcia will have to find a way to play without Gomis. He could decide to go with Remi Cabella as a false number nine. He is a winger but he has played in that position before for the team.
Clinton Njie, who is now back from the Africa Cup of Nations, is another option. Again, he is usually more of a winger but can play centrally too with his pace. Marseille should continue to play in their 4-3-3 formation with Sanson, Lopez and Vainqueur in midfield. They are great ball players but they struggled against the physicality of Nantes last weekend. Lassana Diarra will not be in the squad because his contract was terminated by the club this week after weeks of tension and issues.
Hoboken and Diaby are also out injured while Sakai is also missing at right back. It will be another task for Garcia to replace him and he doesn’t have many options as Fanni is also out. So it will be a makeshift defence for Marseille with midfielder Gregory Sertic probably dropping into defence. Patrice Evra, who had a shocker last weekend and was not 100% fit, is back to full fitness now.
With the problems Marseille have, it is a good opportunity for Rennes to get a good result away at the Vélodrome. They have players missing however with Yoann Gourcuff out for this game, like Aldo Kalulu and Mexer. On the other hand, Joris Gnagnon, who is having a great season at the back, has passed his fitness test and will be ok for this game. It should be the same for Rami Bensebaini, who should also be able to start. Rennes drew their last five league matches, which is an incredible tally. Their possession football could trouble Marseille and all their players missing. So I think it will be a draw between them on Saturday.
The odds are massively in favour of Marseille with a home win at 1.75. A draw is at 3.55 and a Rennes away win is at 5.00.
Clinton Njie is favourite to score first at 5.60. My best tip is a draw and both teams to score at 4.80.
Score prediction: Marseille 1 Rennes 1 (7.50)
Lorient v Nice, Saturday 7pm
For the second game in a row, Nice will play away from home this weekend. They travel to Lorient on Saturday evening, a week after a disappointing draw away at Rennes (2-2). They were 2-0 down and managed to come back to snatch a point but they didn’t play well enough and they lost Alassane Plea through injury.
He will miss this game against Lorient and it’s a big loss for Nice. Mario Balotelli was not involved against Rennes last weekend because he had a fever but he will be back on Saturday and the pressure will be on him. His manager Lucien Favre is not happy with his lack of effort at the moment, that’s why he benched him.
But in the absence of Plea, he needs him back and will hope that Super Mario is in a good mood and in good dispositions as well. Everybody else is available for Nice with Younes Belhanda back to his best level at the moment, like Valentin Eysseric. Nice are now two points off PSG in third and five off Monaco at the top and they have to win to stay in touch with the two teams above them.
The pressure will be on Lorient, still bottom of the table after yet another defeat last weekend, at St Etienne (4-0). They have only won one of their last five league matches and they are in big troubles. They are at home though on Saturday and need a top performance against Nice. However, I think that the visitors will have too much for them.
The odds are quite even with an away win for Nice at 2.50. A draw is at 3.30 and a Lorient home win is at 2.85.
Mario Balotelli is favourite to score first. My best tip is Nice to win both halves at 8.00.
Score prediction: Lorient 0 Nice 2 (12.50)