Saint-Étienne v Lyon – Geoffroy-Guichard at 20:00 Live at BT Sport
After eight years in charge, Christophe Galtier stepped down as coach of St Etienne in the summer having seemingly found a glass ceiling with Les Verts.
The Loire outfit turned to Oscar Garcia as his replacement, hoping to improve on their 10th-placed finish last term, St Etienne’s worst Ligue 1 finish since 2011.
There was hope that Garcia could galvanize the club and implement a more attacking mindset and system. Under Galtier’s watch, Sainte was built upon an organized, structured and strong defense with a clean sheet celebrated over swashbuckling attacking football.
A lack of goals always hampered Les Verts’ progress but they remained fiercely competitive, particularly at their Stade Geoffroy-Guichard base. Indeed, since the start of last season, the hosts have suffered only four defeats in 25 (W10-D11-L4) when welcoming French league opposition.
St Etienne value to avoid derby defeat
But despite arriving with plenty of fanfare, Garcia’s been unable to add more flair to the side in the final third. Sainte has scored just 13 goals this season but remains devilishly difficult to beat and so appear great value 1.92 shots to avoid defeat in the fierce Rhones-Alps derby on Sunday night.
St Etienne – a working-class city – detest their middle-class neighbors and the meeting at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard is always an emotive and evocative showdown. Lyon has held the upper hand over the past 20 years but recently Les Verts have been biting back.
Saint has claimed top honors at home to Lyon in each of the past three campaigns, clinching a memorable 2-0 triumph in this duel last term. And although center-back and captain Loic Perrin is missing, the home side are well capable of clinching a positive result once more.
The home side has no European distractions to disrupt their preparation, whereas Lyon must take on Everton in a crucial Europa League match on Thursday night. And despite claiming three wins on the spin in Ligue 1, there remains plenty of doubt surrounding the visitors.
A 2-0 victory at rock-bottom Metz in their last away day was only their fifth in 14 games as guests with all five wins arriving against bottom-half opponents. In fact, Les Gones have lost five of their last eight at top-six teams and half of their trips to top-half teams under Bruno Genesio.
Defence remains an obvious area of concern for OL with little time to prepare for arguably St Etienne’s biggest game of the campaign, I’m happy to oppose Lyon at the odds available this weekend.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: St Etienne +0.50 at 1.970