Rennes v PSG, Saturday 4pm
The French champions, PSG – only third in the table at the moment – travel to Rennes on Saturday afternoon for their first league game of 2017. It is a tough place to go this season as Rennes have done very well at home in the league but PSG need to perform much better in the second half of the season than they did in the first with four league defeats in 19 games.
They cannot afford the same mistakes. They won both in the French Cup and in the League Cup comfortably in their last two games and they need to keep this form in the league on Saturday.
New signing Julian Draxler is fit again and will be in the squad but Aurier (African Cup of Nations), Pastore and Krychowiak (injured) won’t be. Unai Emery will field a very strong team then and has a lot of options in midfield (Rabiot, Motta, Verratti, Matuidi) and offensively too.
For Rennes, this is a huge game to start the year but the stadium will be full and it will be a great occasion for the players. They are 7th in the table but only have won one of their last six games in all competitions. They lost their striker Giovanni Sio and their best defender Ramy Bensebaini because of the AFCON. They will suffer against Paris on Saturday and I think the Champions will get the three points.
The odds are massively in favour of PSG with an away win at 1.50. The draw is at 4.10 and a Rennes home win is at 7.00.
Edinson Cavani is favourite to score first at 3.60. My best tip is PSG to win without conceding a goal at 2.25.
Score prediction: Rennes 0 PSG 2 (7.50)
Marseille v Monaco, Sunday 8pm
This is the big game of the weekend in France, a huge Mediterranean derby at the Stade Velodrome as Marseille host Monaco on Sunday evening. The rivalry goes back to the 80s and the hatred is still very much present. Marseille finished 2016 very well under Rudi Garcia and sit in 6th place in the table, just four points behind Lyon in 4th (having played a game more though).
They have done very well at home too and have a score to settle with Monaco as they were humiliated over there a few weeks ago (4-0). Garcia got everything wrong that evening and he will be hoping to make the right choices on Sunday. Lassana Diarra is not in the squad for this game as Marseille are hoping to sell him, but the trio of Vainqueur-Lopez-Anguissa has done well.
Up front, Thauvin and Gomis have carried this team offensively while Cabella scored a brace in the French Cup at Toulouse (2-1) last weekend. Gomes lost a member of his family in midweek so is a doubt and Njie is away at the AFCON. Garcia has plenty of options available offensively. Defensively, it's not the same although Marseille has been quite solid since Garcia took over from Passi. Bedimo and Hubocan are both out though.
On the other hand, it is a tough game to start 2017 in the league for Monaco. They won both in the French Cup last weekend and in the League Cup in midweek against second division teams, but didn't play well. They need to up their game on Sunday. They scored for fun in the first half of the season and manager Leonardo Jardim has all his offensive assets available in Lemar, Silva, Falcao or Germain. Dirar and Traoré are away at the AFCON, Mendy is suspended but everybody else is available. It will be a great and open game and I think Marseille will cause problems to Monaco and will get a point.
The odds are in favour of Monaco with an away win at 2.40. A draw is at 3.40 and a Marseille home win is at 3.00.
Radamel Falcao is favourite to score first at 6.00. My best tip is a draw and both teams to score at 4.50.
Score prediction: Marseille 1 Monaco 1 (7.00)
Caen v Lyon, Sunday 4pm
Lyon travel to Caen on Sunday afternoon in great form. L’OL, currently fourth in the table just five points behind PSG and with a game in hand, have just won seven of their last eight league matches.
Their confidence is high as we saw in the French Cup when they destroyed Montpellier 5-0 last weekend. Nabil Fekir looks like he was back to his best, Lacazette scored again and, offensively, Lyon looked very sharp, even if they are still trying to sign another winger in the transfer window.
Rachid Ghezzal is away for the AFCON which is a big loss for Lyon. Mathieu Valbuena is expected to start with Lacazette and Fekir and he finished 2016 so well that he totally deserves to start on Sunday.
Defensively, they will be without Nicolas Nkoulou who is also away at the AFCON too while Morel is out, but everybody else is available. The manager Bruno Genesio could start once again in a 4-4-2, like last weekend, with Cornet on the right hand side.
Lyon have to start well to put pressure on the top three in the hope of catching them up. They will have to win their game in hand as well away at Metz but signs are very positive at the moment for them.
It is not the same for Caen though. The surprise package of last season are struggling this year. Nothing is going their way despite the good campaign of their new striker Ivan Santini (eight league goals already). They are 18th in the table, in a tight fight against relegation but they need to do more, especially defensively.
They lost their best defender though, Syam Ben Youssef, who is away at the AFCON and they will struggle against a very in-form Lyon attack. I expect them to lose on Sunday even if they managed to beat Nice not long ago at home.
The odds are massively in favour of Lyon with an away win at 1.80. A draw is at 3.70 and a Caen home win is at 4.35.
Alexandre Lacazette is favourite to score first at 4.10. My best tip is Lyon to win both halves at 5.00.
Score prediction: Caen 1 Lyon 3 (14.00)
Nice v Metz, Sunday 2pm
2017 didn't start well for the league leaders with a defeat in the French Cup at Lorient last weekend. 2016 didn't finish well either (a 0-0 draw at Bordeaux with Balotelli and Belhanda sent off) but at least they have what looks like an easy game on Sunday at home against strugglers Metz.
Nice, who are two points clear of Monaco and five of PSG, will be without Balotelli and Belhanda but also without Seri (AFCON) and Cyprien (not fit yet). So they will rely on Plea (10 league goals already this season) and Sarr (one of the revelations of the season so far) to lead the team.
Danté and Baysse are back as well in defence which is a big boost. At least they will be able to focus purely on the league now as they are out of the other three competitions they entered at the start of the season. It is a big advantage compared to PSG and Monaco, who are still in four competitions.
Metz didn't do too bad in midweek in the League Cup quarter-final away at PSG with a defeat but only two goals conceded. The manager Philippe Hinschberger will recall his key players rested on Wednesday, like Erding and they will try to fight hard to get a point from the game. However, I think it will be an easy game and a win for Nice at home.
The odds are massively in favour of Nice with a home win at 1.47.
A draw is at 4.30 and a Metz away win is at 7.20.
Alassane Plea is favourite to score first at 4.00. My best tip is Nice to win both halves at 3.55.
Score prediction: Nice 3 Metz 0 (10.00)