Ligue 1: The State Of Play
With 11 matches played in the Ligue 1 season, PSG and Monaco are separated by goal difference at the top of the table. Today Andrew Gibney looks at the state of play in Ligue 1 betting.
This was supposed to be a season of transition for the 2010/11 Ligue 1 champions, but new boss René Girard has someone, miraculously, guided Lille OSC to third in the Ligue 1 table. If results go their way, they could even overtake both Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco this weekend. Not bad for a club who’s own fans, only a few weeks ago were protesting after a “shocking” transfer window.
Now, apart from being knocked out of the Coupe de la Ligue by Ligue 2 side Auxerre, everything seems much brighter in Northern France, well that and the weather. It was Girard that guided Montpellier to their first ever title two years ago, and now his southern charm has won over the cold LOSC faithful, Rudi Garcia is nothing more than a distant memory.
Their success has come from a solid, uncompromising defence, an area that used to be no more than a second thought under Garcia, now it is at the basis of everything Lille does well. Gone is the cavalier 4-3-3 and Girard has brought in a 4-4-2 diamond, playing with three central midfielders, hoping to build a solid foundation. Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has been nothing short of spectacular so far, the 1-0 win over Nantes last Friday was his 9th clean sheet of the season, saving Remy Cabella’s 85th penalty away at Montpellier one of his many outstanding highlights. Danish defender Simon Kjaer looks like he has been part of the Lille back four for the last five years and has found himself regularly appearing in many French publications “Team of the Week” lists.
Ligue 1 2013/2014 Title Odds - Odds as at 30th October 2013.
Continuing this success will be difficult, especially this weekend. Monaco travel north on Sunday and Colombian Radamel Falcao will be looking for goal number nine and with his back-up dancers, Joao Moutinho, James Rodriguez and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, this is by far the biggest test Girard’s defence have faced. The bookmakers seem a little torn on the outcome with Bet Victor still offering 2.55 for a Monaco win, William Hill give Lille odds of 3.30, which is a good price for a team that has only conceded two goals at home, and four overall. If Les Dogues can get through Sunday’s game unscathed then you will be lucky to find anything above Bwin’s Evens for them to finish in the top three. Not just because of the great job Girard has done, but also the unconvincing form from any of their main rivals.
Marseille was everyone’s favourite to finish third this season; some had even predicted they could finish above Monaco. Opinions have changed rather drastically in the last month. Losing 3-2 to Stade de Reims last week made it five consecutive defeats in all competitions for l’OM and Coach Elie Baup, although he has been given the dreaded vote de confidence by President Vincent Labrune, his neck is on the chopping block. Amazingly for a team in sixth you can still find odds of 3.00 on them to finish top three, the contrast being the drop in Lille’s price from 7.00 to evens.
Ligue 1 2013/2014 Top 3 Odds - Odds as at 30th October 2013.
Baup’s side have difficult away trips to Rennes, Ajaccio and Lille before the winter break, not to mention the local derby at home to Montpellier (if it goes ahead due to the planned boycott). Newly motivated Sochaux also visit the Velodrome in two weeks. Five games that Marseille could, if they find form, pick up between 10-12 points, but if they continue to falter, they could pick up less than five. Throw in two Champions League away games at Napoli and Arsenal and you begin to worry how off the pace Marseille will be come the winter break.
The challenge in Ligue 1 is to successfully predict what teams are going to go on runs, and when. This could be Lille’s purple patch, and if Nolan Roux doesn’t find his scoring boots, or Salomon Kalou doesn’t find his passing boots, then clean sheets will turn from wins to 0-0 draws. The bonus for Lille is the competition looks as inconsistent as ever and only aids to keep everyone in a tightly knitted group. Five points separate Nantes in 4th to Bordeaux in 13th. Both Nantes and Guingamp have won four of their last six, whereas Saint-Etienne, on the same points as Guingamp, has only one win from the last six.
Ligue 1 2013/2014 Relegation Odds - Odds as at 30th October 2013.
However it is Les Verts who are the team to watch in the next few weeks. Coming off the back of their 2-2 draw at home to PSG the hope is that coach Christophe Galtier can turn around the disappointment of losing two late goals on Sunday into a reason for motivation, they were 2-0 up against PSG and would have probably won if Fabien Lemoine hadn’t been sent off. They travel to Sochaux next, and will be confident of three points. Then comes the big one, the Derby du Rhone against arch-rivals Lyon and it seems to be said every year, but this is Saint-Etienne’s best chance to end a 19 year hoodoo. You have to go back to 1994, with Laurent Blanc in defence to find ASSE’s last home win against Lyon and with Remi Garde’s side way down in 14th, this has to be the time. Victory would provide a boost of astronomic proportions. Both Guingamp and Nantes have difficult runs coming up, making Saint-Etienne’s 12/1 to finish in the Top three easily the best value at the moment.
“Who will remain unbeaten the longest?" - PSG v Monaco
Bwin have an interesting little side bet going on at the moment. Asking “Who will remain unbeaten the longest in Ligue 1?” It is of course between the top two, PSG and Monaco; currently they have PSG at odds of 1.25 and Monaco priced at 3.55. Now when you look at the runs ahead it’s easy to see why. PSG are at home for three of the next four games, whereas Monaco have to go to Lille, Nantes and then Nice who are unbeaten. Once it gets past this weekend PSG have the favourable draw, although their last league defeat was at hands of Reims and they play them in three weeks’ time.
However, this is the weekend it could end for the Parisians. They face Lorient at the Parc des Princes and it may not sound like the toughest match-up, but Lorient has a history of upsetting their hosts in this match-up. In fact it has been five years since PSG last won in this fixture, and even that finished 3-2. Les Merlus have won two out of the last five; the last meeting here they went 2-0 up in the first half before Zlatan Ibrahimovic saved his new side with a debut double. PSG were a little lucky to survive against Saint-Etienne last Sunday and with one eye on the Champions League, it could just be possible.
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Follow Andrew on Twitter: @Gibney_A
And read more of his work at FrenchFootballWeekly.com