Robert Bhamber is back for the first time in the New Year to bring you a comprehensive guide to the Ligue 1 weekend.
Friday: Montpellier vs Marseille (19:30 GMT)
The first match after the winter break sees Montpellier return to the Stade de la Mosson with league leaders Marseille as the visitors. Both teams head into this match on the back of Coupe de France exits, so both Rolland Courbis and Marcelo Bielsa will be looking for a response from their players. The hosts start the second half the season in 10th position and will be aiming to cement their spot in the top half of the table in the coming months.
Marseille, meanwhile, can temporarily extend their lead at the top of the table to five points with a victory here, something Bielsa will be keen to see happen in order to pile the pressure onto the chasing Lyon and PSG. Their fans will also want to see a positive performance, if only to recover from the humiliating defeat to fourth-tier side Grenoble in the cup.
– Montpellier have lost just one of their last six league games.
– They have scored 21 league goals so far this campaign, whilst they have conceded 19.
– Marseille have failed to win any of their last four away league matches.
– They have scored 38 league goals so far, conceding 17 in return.
– Earlier this season, Montpellier beat Marseille 2-0 at the Stade Velodrome.
Saturday: Bastia vs PSG (16:00 GMT)
Second-from-bottom Bastia face a tough return to league action as champions PSG visit the Stade Armand Cesari. The hosts ended December in decent form, beating Rennes and drawing with Caen, and they have carried that form into 2015 as they defeated Lille in the Coupe de France. They are just one point from safety at the moment, so Ghislain Printant will have every belief that he can keep his side in Ligue 1.
PSG, however, are firmly focussed on the other end of the table, as they look to keep up with league leaders Marseille and fellow title contenders Lyon. Laurent Blanc’s men start the second half of the campaign three points off the top, although that could have extended to six by the time this match gets underway. Blanc knows that anything less than PSG retaining their championship will be deemed unacceptable, both by the fans and the owners.
– Bastia have not lost in their last four competitive outings.
– They have won 13 points from a possible 30 at home in the league this campaign.
– PSG have not been top of the table at all this season.
– However, they have the best away record in the division, with 17 points from 10 games.
– Earlier this season, PSG beat Bastia 2-0 at the Parc des Princes.
Saturday: Lille vs Caen (19:00 GMT)
Lille will hope the New Year brings a fresh start as they return to league action against Caen at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. The hosts had a dreadful first half of the campaign, as just six wins in 19 games left them languishing in 11th, 17 points behind league leaders Marseille. And their Coupe de France result won’t have provided the Lille faithful with much optimism, as they were knocked out by Bastia last weekend.
Bottom-of-the-table Caen aren’t having the best of seasons either; they are four points from safety in the league and were also knocked out of the Coupe de France, losing 3-2 to Dijon after extra time. Patrice Garande will be hoping his side’s fortunes pick up soon; otherwise they may be making a rapid return to Ligue 2.
– Lille have won just two of their last 11 league matches.
– They are unbeaten in home league games this season in which they scored the first goal.
– Caen haven’t won any of their last eight away league games.
– They topped the table after Week 1, but entered the winter break at the bottom.
– Earlier this season, Lille beat Caen 1-0 at the Stade Michel d’Ornano.
Saturday: Guingamp vs Lens (19:00 GMT)
Guingamp will be looking to continue their good form as they take on Lens at the Stade du Roudourou. The hosts ended the first half of the campaign with three wins and a draw in their last four league matches and started 2015 with a comprehensive 3-0 victory away at Dinan Lehon in the Coupe de France. Jocelyn Gourvennec will be hoping his side can keep their form going as they look to move even further clear of the relegation zone.
Lens, meanwhile, are hovering above the bottom three on goal difference only. They were knocked out of the cup competition by Lyon; they scored two late goals as they valiantly tried to fight back from 3-0 down, but it proved too little too late for Antoine Kombouare’s men. They did, however, end the first half of the campaign with a 2-0 win over Nice, which took them from 19th to 16th in the league.
– Guingamp have spent 11 weeks in the relegation zone this season.
– They have lost every home league game this season in which they conceded first.
– Lens have won just two of their last eight league outings.
– They haven’t won any of their last four away league games.
– Earlier this season, Guingamp beat Lens 1-0 at the Stade de la Licorne.
Saturday: Nice vs Lorient (19:00 GMT)
Both Nice and Lorient will be looking to bounce back from disappointing Coupe de France exits as they clash at the Allianz Riviera. Nice have struggled of late, ending the first half of the season with a 2-0 defeat to Lens, before losing by the same scoreline away to second division side Valenciennes in midweek. Claude Puel will be hoping a home game against a fellow mid-table side provides a perfect platform to get back to winning ways.
Lorient suffered an even worse defeat in midweek though, as they crashed out of the cup competition against fourth-tier side Avranches. Their inconsistent form has seen them spend most of the season floating around the bottom half of the league and manager Sylvain Ripoll’s main aim will be to simply keep his side in Ligue 1.
– Nice have won just one of their last eight league outings.
– They have taken 12 points from a possible 30 at home this campaign.
– Lorient have won three and lost six of their nine away league matches so far.
– They have scored 10 and conceded 16 in these games.
– Earlier this season, these two teams played out a goalless draw at the Stade du Moustoir.
Saturday: Evian vs Rennes (19:00 GMT)
Both Evian and Rennes will be aiming to end losing streaks in the league as they face off at the Parc des Sports on Saturday. The hosts have lost their last four outings in Ligue 1, a run that saw them drop from 14th to 18th heading into the winter break. They are in the relegation zone on goal difference only, but manager Pascal Dupraz will be desperate to move up the table as soon as possible.
Rennes, meanwhile, also ended the first half of the campaign in terrible form, losing their last three league matches. The visitors had been keeping in touch with the league’s leading pack beforehand, but that run of results saw them drop from fifth to eighth in the standings. Philippe Montanier will want his side to get back to winning ways in the league by picking up all three points this weekend.
– Evian have won six league games this campaign, all of which came in two runs of three consecutive victories.
– They have lost all three home league matches this season in which they conceded the first goal.
– Rennes have lost just one of their last five away league games.
– Despite their form in Ligue 1, both sides were victorious in their Coupe de France fixtures. Evian beat Bobigny AC whilst Rennes defeated US Dunkerque.
– Earlier this season, Rennes thrashed Evian 6-2 at the Stade de la Route de Lorient.
Saturday: Reims vs St Etienne (19:00 GMT)
Reims face a tough challenge in their return to league action as St Etienne visit the Stade Auguste Delaune. The hosts won their last two league fixtures before the winter break and also beat Lusitanos St Maur in the Coupe de France last weekend. However, Jean-Luc Vasseur will accept a point against an in-form St Etienne side.
The visitors are undefeated in their last 10 league outings and were also victorious in the cup competition, beating Nancy 1-0 after extra time. They weren’t at their best last weekend, but Christophe Galtier’s men are proving extremely difficult to beat. They will certainly be looking for nothing less than all three points here, as they look to stay within touching distance of the likes of PSG and Lyon.
– Reims have lost just one of their last six home league games.
– However, they are yet to win a home fixture this season after conceding the first goal.
– St Etienne have not dropped outside of the top half of the table all season.
– They have not conceded a goal in any of their last six league outings.
– Earlier this season, St Etienne beat Reims 3-1 at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
Sunday: Lyon vs Toulouse (16:00 GMT)
Lyon will be aiming to keep up with table toppers Marseille by taking all three points against Toulouse at the Stade de Gerland. The hosts ended the first half of the campaign in fantastic form, winning their previous four league games, and started 2015 in the same vain after defeating Lens 3-2. The gap between Lyon and Marseille may well be five points come Sunday, so Hubert Fournier knows his side can’t afford to slip up in games like these if they are to maintain a title challenge.
Toulouse, meanwhile, will be hoping to return to league action with a win after an inconsistent first half of the season. The visitors sit 14th in the table, just two points above the relegation zone, something that manager Alain Casanova will be keen to steer clear of as the campaign goes on. Toulouse were knocked out of the Coupe de France last weekend, losing 2-1 to rivals Bordeaux in a Garonne derby.
– Lyon are the league highest goalscorers this campaign, with 40 league goals in 19 games so far.
– They also have the best home record in the division, having taken 27 points from a possible 30 at the Stade de Gerland.
– Toulouse have lost seven of their last ten league games.
– They are yet to draw away from home this season, having won three and lost seven on the road.
– Earlier this season, Toulouse caused an upset by defeating Lyon 2-1 at the Stadium Municipal.
Sunday: Nantes vs Metz (16:00 GMT)
Nantes are searching for their third consecutive league win as they welcome Metz to the Stade de la Beaujoire. The hosts beat both Bordeaux and Lorient in the run up to the winter break and manager Michel Der Zakarian will be hoping his side’s good league form continues this year. They got 2015 off to a winning start after a comfortable 4-0 victory against Club Franciscain in the Coupe de France.
Metz also managed a win in the cup competition, a 2-1 win away at SA Epinal, but their league form leaves much to be desired. They have won just one of their last 11 league outings and are 17th in the table, sitting just above the relegation zone on goal difference only. Albert Cartier knows his side need to start picking up league wins sooner rather than later.
– Nantes have spent the entire campaign so far in the top half of the table.
– They are yet to win a home league game this season in which they have conceded first.
– Metz have the worst away record in the division, with one win, one draw and eight defeats.
– Despite their form though, they have spent just one week inside the bottom three.
– Earlier this season, these two teams drew 1-1 at the Stade Saint-Symphorien.
Sunday: Monaco vs Bordeaux (20:00 GMT)
Monaco will be aiming to extend their winning run as they host Bordeaux at the Stade Louis II. The hosts have won their last four league matches, seven in all competitions, something that Leonardo Jardim will be eager to see continue into the new year. They have already got 2015 off to a good start, as they secured a 2-0 win against Nimes in the Coupe de France.
Bordeaux also started the year with a win, after emerging 2-1 winners against local rivals Toulouse in the cup competition. However, they entered the winter break on the back of a disastrous result, losing 5-0 at home to Lyon in Week 19. Willy Sagnol will want his side to return to the form that took them to the top of the league in the opening weeks of this campaign.
– With five losses so far, Monaco have already suffered one more league defeat than they did in the whole of the last campaign.
– However, they haven’t conceded a single goal in their previous four league games.
– Bordeaux have not dropped lower than seventh all season.
– The 5-0 loss to Lyon was their heaviest defeat in more than seven years, since losing to the same scoreline away at Caen in 2007.
– Earlier this season, Bordeaux comfortably defeated Monaco 4-1 at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.