Lille v Saint-Etienne – Stade Pierre-Mauroy at 19:45 live on BT Sport 3
Fans of free-flowing attacking football might want to give Friday night’s televised Ligue 1 encounter between Lille and Saint-Etienne a miss. Supporters of attritional, gritty and safety-first football, this one’s for you.
Lille produced a marvellous run in early 2016 to finish as high as fifth in Ligue 1 at the end of 2015/16. It was a traumatic campaign that saw Herve Renard axed with Les Dogues sitting inches above the relegation zone and Frederic Antonetti parachuting the club up the standings with nine wins from their final 12 games.
But Antonetti was unable to keep the Lille ball rolling and despite signing a contract until 2020, the head coach was dismissed following a dismal run of results in mid-November. Patrick Collot has since been handed the reigns with the board demanding European football.
A new era for Lille?
Les Dogues are in the midst of a major takeover and the French football community has been rife with rumours. The strongest such secret that’s been made public is Lille’s thirst to employ Marcelo Bielsa in the hot-seat so Collot will be keen to pick up positive results from the off.
Lille are only two points above the relegation zone but started 2017 with a routine 4-1 triumph against Excelsior from the island of Reunion in the Coupe de France last Saturday. Although Les Dogues progressed, again there was plenty of criticism from supporters; a touch unfair considering the players unavailable.
Central midfielder Mounir Obbadi and left winger Naim Sliti are on African Cup of Nations duty whilst skipper Rio Mavuba, wingers Eric Bautheac and Ryan Mendes and forward Junior Tallo are also out of action, robbing Lille of key creativity.
The hosts have seen eight of their last 11 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy against top-half teams feature fewer than three goals, as well as six of their last seven when entertaining Saint-Etienne and a repeat should be in the offing on Friday night.
Under 2 Goals is available to support at 1.86 and looks the best avenue of attack. Only two of the visitors’ past 12 have breached the two-goal line and since the start of last season, these two have been involved in 24/57 (42%) winning Under 1.5 Goals games in home/away matches with 39/57 (68%) producing two goals or less.
Sainte-Etienne have unconvinced this season. Les Verts are in eighth-place and claimed a sole success in five before heading north with a lack of goals continuing to hamper Christophe Galtier’s troops, especially on the road.
Their tally of 18 goals this term is comfortably the lowest of anyone in the top-half and the guests have fired blanks in four of their past seven away trips. The low-scoring rate has contributed to Under 2.5 Goals proving a prolific money-maker with 14 of Sainte-Etienne’s past 17 featuring fewer than three goals.
Sainte have also been hit by African Nations call-ups and injuries. Attacking midfielder Henri Saivet, right winger Oussama Tannane and left-back Cheikh M’Bengue are all in Gabon on international duty and so with both clubs missing key components, opposing goals looks our best solution.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Under 2 goals at 1.86
Prices correct at time of writing.
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