Following PSG’s win on Friday night, Julien Laurens takes a look at the rest of the top four in Ligue 1, who are all in action on Sunday…
St Etienne 1.45, draw 4.20, Sochaux 7.50 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 13.00 Sunday
St Etienne had high hopes last weekend travelling to Paris. Les Verts had always managed to trouble the Parisians in the past, but not this time. PSG were too strong and despite a better second half, St Etienne were beaten.
They need to bounce back on Sunday and the visit of Sochaux is the perfect game for that. For Christophe Galtier’s men, this is a great opportunity to come back two points behind Lille in 3rd if they lose at Monaco, which is very possible.
St Etienne have been great at home this season where they have lost only twice, against Lyon at the last minute and early in the season against Toulouse. But PSG and Marseille drew there and Monaco and Lille were beaten. They have not been beaten at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in three months and they will be ready to destroy Sochaux on Sunday.
Offensively, they showed good things in Paris but lacked efficiency in front of goal and could not beat Salvatore Sirigu. But Franck Tabanou and Yohan Mollo were lively and Brandao was a handful up front as usual. They suffered defensively against Zlatan Ibrahimovic but they are overall very strong at home in that department, especially against weaker teams like Sochaux.
The Stephanois are aware of the regained confidence of this Sochaux team but they will be determined to get back to winning ways after the disappointment of the Parc des Princes, and also the defeat in Lorient the previous weekend.
Sochaux are going better indeed, though and they are back in the fight against relegation. They are only five points behind Evian, the first team outside of the relegation zone. They have lost only two of their last 8 league games, both away from home though (at Lille and Monaco).
Hervé Renard, their manager, has made them more disciplined defensively and dangerous on set pieces. Now, they need to replicate their home form (four league wins in a row at the Stade Bonal) in their away fixtures. They expect to suffer on Sunday though.
They are aware of the great home record of St Etienne this season and they will play on the counter with the pace of their forwards Roy Contout, Edouard Butin or Cedric Bakambu. Their win last weekend against Lorient (2-0) was solid and convincing but it will be another stor in the Green Caldron. Sochaux will find it very difficult and I can see them losing heavily.
Brandao is favourite to score first at 5.60. My best tip is St Etienne to score in both halves at 2.45. The away team not to score at 1.92 is very interesting too.
Score prediction: St Etienne 3 Sochaux 0 (9.50)
Monaco 1.85, draw 3.35, Lille 4.50 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 20.00 Sunday
This is a second massive game in a row for Monaco. They were lucky in Lyon last Sunday when they scored three goals, all offside, to beat the home team 3-2!
Despite the controversy over the goals, they looked sharp offensively but were so poor once again defensively, especially with the absence of Jérémy Toulalan, who was suspended. The holding midfielder is back for this game and will bring a lot of solidity to his team.
Monaco know that Lille, third in the table, is a tough team to break defensively. Claudio Ranieri will be encouraged by the relationship between James Rodriguez and Dimitar Berbatov up front. They combined well in Lyon, alongside Valere Germain. Rodriguez is in great form playing behind two strikers and last Sunday was the best offensive display the team has put on in 2014. However, defensively, it was a bit of a shambles.
Eric Abidal was dropped and the pair of centre-halves Nicolas Isimat Mirin and Ricardo Carvalho didn’t convince at all. Abidal could return this weekend but he is out of form too. Toulalan’s comeback is a big boost for the team as Lille will play on the counter to try to expose Monaco’s defensive flaws.
For Lille, this is an even bigger game than for Monaco. They have a five-point cushion on St Etienne but Les Verts have an easy home game against strugglers Sochaux.
Lille cannot afford to lose in Monaco and will be dreaming of a win there which would at least keep the gap to five points. After a disastrous start to 2014, they are playing and defending a bit better in the last few weeks. They are unbeaten in six league games with three wins and three draws but their disappointing draw against Nantes at home last weekend (0-0) also showed that they still have some problems to create chances and score.
However, they have a good record at Monaco with only 3 defeats in their last 10 visits and their confidence is higher at the moment. They will be without their captain Rio Mavuba but they will offer a strong opposition to Monaco and I think the game will end up in a draw, with Lille keeping a clean sheet.
Berbatov is favourite to score first at 5.50. My best tip is a draw at half-time and a draw at full-time at 4.60.
Score prediction: Monaco 0 Lille 0 (8.50)