Metz v St Etienne – Stade Saint-Symphorien at 15:00 GMt Live at BT Sport
Saint-Etienne secured their maiden Ligue 1 victory of 2020 last weekend, overcoming struggling Nimes 2-1 to push Les Verts 10 points clear of the relegation play-off place. The much-missed and fit-again Wahbi Khazri struck twice as Claude Puel’s team triumphed for the first time since early December.
The Tunisian winger put the hosts ahead in only the third minute of an important match for both teams – beating the Nimes offside trap and collecting a long ball from Miguel Trauco, before slotting past Paul Bernardoni from a tight angle to grab his first league goal since October.
The former Sunderland man was presented with the chance to bag his second of the match just half an hour later, when referee Jeremy Stinat pointed to the spot after Arnaud Nordin was brought down in the Nimes box. Khazri stepped up confidently, coolly dispatching the penalty to double St Etienne’s advantage.
Having established a domineering position, the home side looked set to head into the break with a comfortable lead. However, they were pegged back on the stroke of half-time, as the visitors headed home following a botched attempt to play out from the back by the Les Verts defence.
The second half proved to be an equal affair for the most part, as both sides slogged it out for territory and possession in a close fought battle. Nimes thought they’d earned a valuable draw in the 86th minute only for VAR to disallow the equaliser and St Etienne nervously saw out the remainder of the match.
Puel’s posse yet to impress on the road
Victory has given Les Verts vital breathing space and represents a potentially seminal moment in the season for Puel. Having finally arrested their abject run of recent results, the former Southampton head coach will hope to utilise this result as a springboard for the back end of what has thus far been a sullen campaign.
Having Khazri back fit and firing can only be a boost for Sainte and the return of talismanic Denis Bouanga will also give the squad a big boost in attacking areas. The Gabonese striker leads the scoring charts for Les Verts this season and his presence on the pitch is seemingly pivotal if progress is to be made before May.
Whether Sainte can produce the goods on Sunday afternoon in Metz is questionable. The guests have suffered six losses in 10 away days this term and have leaked at least twice in six of those road trips; seven of those outings have produced at least three goals with an average of 2.90 goals per-game.
Despite those high goal trends, the goals line for Sunday’s showdown has been set at just 1.75 and it makes sense to take the Over 1.75 Goals route at a generous 1.73 offering considering the twin-threats of Khazri and Bouanga are available for the visitors, plus Metz’ own ability to grab a goal since promotion.
Habib Diallo’s 11th of the season in Les Grenats’ 1-0 win in Reims clinched back-to-back wins for the first time this season for the newcomers and easing their own relegation concerns. Vincent Hognon’s outfit have been beaten just twice since October, scoring in all bar two of those 10 tussles, whilst seven of their 10 Stade Saint-Symphorien encounters have produced profit for this selection.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 1.75 at 1.730
Preview by: @MarkOHaire