Metz v Lille – Stade Saint-Symphorien at 19.00 live on BT Sport Europe
Of the past 33 promoted sides to Ligue 1, 20 (61%) have managed to survive their first season in the French top-flight. Metz have suffered immediate demotion twice in that period and so Les Grenats will be hoping to make it third time lucky this time around.
The side from the north-east bounced straight back to Ligue 1 last season but it was a close-run campaign with Metz only securing promotion on goals scored having been level on both goal difference and games won with Le Havre.
And the bookmakers aren’t expecting Philippe Hinschberger’s side to hang around for long, installing Les Grenats as ante-post favourites to be relegated again. The newcomers certainly face a tough introduction back in the top-flight when they welcome Lille on Saturday evening.
Metz have managed to keep Hinschberger over the summer. The head coach took over midway through 2015/16 and guided the club from seventh into the top-three – winning 11 of his 19 matches in charge – but this is the boss’ first taste of top division football.
The promoted club built their season upon a strong home record – losing just four games – but often failed to impress defensively. Metz kept just 14 clean sheets and conceded more than a goal-per-game on average.
Further doubt can be found in their summer transfer business. Last season’s leading goalscorer and assist-provider Yeni N’Gbakoto was snapped up by QPR whilst defenders Romain Metanire and Jose Luis Palomino and midfielder Andre Santos also departed.
The club has largely been reliant on loans and free transfers with Turkish international striker Mevlut Erdinc the most eye-catching arrival. A collection of experienced 30-somethings have also been added, including injury absences Franck Signorino and Yann Jouffre.
Experienced midfielder Kevin Lejeune and Matthieu Udol are also expected to miss this weekend’s match leaving the hosts looking a little vulnerable, especially when compared to the team that finished third in Ligue 2 last season.
Visitors Lille kicked-off their campaign in the Europa League qualifiers and were disappointed to exit the competition following a 2-1 aggregate reverse to Azeri side Qabala. Les Dogues dominated both legs, creating plenty of goalscoring opportunities but failed to finish their chances.
Nevertheless, plenty is expected of Lille this term after a fabulous end to 2015/16. Frederick Antonetti took charge of the club in the relegation zone but transformed their fortunes in the space of the a few months – Les Dogues lost just twice in 2016 and finished in fifth, a remarkable achievement.
Lille have now concluded their campaign in the top-eight of Ligue 1 in every season since 2008/08 and will be hoping to continue their momentum with a fast start at the Stade Saint-Symphorien.
Antonetti’s troops won nine of their final 12 fixtures, lost just eight outings all season and enjoyed the second-best defensive record in the top-flight. However, Lille’s 39-goal output needs improving and the visitors worked hard to secure Euro 2016 hero Eder on a permanent deal following a decent loan spell.
Lille have also added Julian Palmieri and Younousse Sankhare to their ranks – leading performers at Bastia and Guingamp – to replace the departed Florent Balmont and Djibril Sidibe, whilst playmaker Sofiane Boufal could also be leaving before the end of August.
Les Dogues are unlikely to have Marko Basa and Junior Tallo back here but they should still possess enough quality and game-management to eke out an early season result. Lille lost just four times on their travels last tem and W3-D4-L1 when visiting teams in the bottom-eight.
I’d be surprised to see Lille suffer an opening day defeat with Metz appearing a little ragged for Saturday night’s encounter and therefore I’ll invest my faith in the visitors with a -0.25 Asian Handicap start at 1.98.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Lille -0.25 at 1.98
Prices correct at time of writing.
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