Nice v Montpellier, Friday 7.45pm
This weekend, Nice have the advantage to play at home on Friday evening against Montpellier. It is a great opportunity for the home side to close the gap with Monaco and go level with the leaders who don’t play until Saturday. It has been a few tough weeks for the surprise package of the season.
Despite winning at Lorient last weekend (1-0), Nice’s current form has not been the greatest in 2017 so far. But they are still hanging in there, still in the title race. They will be without their main two strikers on Friday though. Mario Balotelli is suspended while Alassane Plea is out for the rest of the season through injury.
It is a double blow for Lucien Favre and his team. It means young greek striker Anastatios Donis, on loan from Juventus, will start for the first time in the league this season. It is a big task for him to replace Balotelli and Plea but he is full of energy and confidence after scoring against Rennes two weeks ago.
The team and the manager trust him though. Malang Sarr, the revelation of the season, has been dropped after some poor performances and is not in the squad while Ricardo Pereira is still out. Otherwise, everybody else is available. Favre will field a very strong team in a 4-3-3 formation.
For Montpellier, new manager Jean-Louis Gasset has had a very positive impact with three wins in his four matches in charge so far and Montpellier are now 11th in the table, five points clear of the bottom three. However, this is a huge challenge for him. He will set up his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation again but Montpellier’s away form has been dreadful all season. I think they will work very hard but will eventually be beaten by Nice.
The odds are in favour of Nice with a home win at 2.04. A draw is at 3.40 and a Montpellier away win is at 3.75.
Anastatios Donis is favourite to score first at 5.80. My best tip is Nice to win without conceding a goal at 3.35.
Score prediction: Nice 1 Montpellier 0 (7.50)
Guingamp v Monaco, Saturday 4pm
Four days after their incredible Champions League match at Manchester City, Monaco travel to Guingamp on Saturday afternoon for another tricky away game. Of course, Guingamp are not City but it is not an easy place to go at all, even if the home side’s current form is really bad.
Yet Monaco might not be at their best considering the disappointment of the result in England and all the energy they put into it. They were shattered after the loss at the Etihad and the manager Leonardo Jardim will rotate his squad with Moutinho, Germain, Emerson, Touré or Dirar all probably starting after being on the bench or out of the midweek defeat against City.
Monaco need fresh legs and need to bounce back after their heartbreaking loss in Manchester. Twice they led but their lack of experience and the fatigue cost them dearly. They are still the league leaders in Ligue 1, three points clear, and they are hoping that the defeat in Europe won’t have an impact psychologically on their league form.
They made their club proud against City but it is very important that they move one quickly and get back on track in the league, after drawing their last match, away at Bastia (1-1) last weekend.
Guingamp have been excellent at home this season in the league, beating PSG and Lyon for example at the Roudourou Stadium in the last few weeks. But their form in 2017 is dreadful with just one league win (against Lyon) since the turn of the year. They were fifth at the winter break and are now down to ninth in the table. But they will be up for this game. As always, they will fight hard and make life very difficult for the visitors, especially the leaders. They drew 2-2 at Monaco on the opening weekend of the season and dream of a similar result on Saturday. And I think they will get a point once more against Monaco.
The odds are massively in favour of Monaco with an away win at 1.73. A draw is at 3.80 and a Guingamp home win is at 4.80.
Radamel Falcao is favourite to score first at 4.60. My best tip is a draw at half time and a draw at full time at 5.75.
Score prediction: Guingamp 1 Monaco 1 (8.00)