Reims v Nantes – Stade Auguste-Delaune at 14:00 GMT live at BT Sport
Last season’s runaway Ligue 2 champions Reims have taken the top-tier by storm on their first return since 2015/16. Stade built their promotion success upon a strong and stern defensive system, and head coach David Guion has ensured the Champagne club have stayed true to their uber-organised principles.
Back-to-back draws against Amiens and Dijon have slowed progress but Reims still find themselves coming into this weekend’s contest with Nantes in fifth, only four points shy of Marseille, who occupy fourth. Guion’s group have underpinned their eye-catching efforts with that superb backline solidity from last season.
Stade have shipped only 27 goals – only runaway defending champions PSG and Lille have leaked fewer – and goalkeeper Edouard Mendys tally of 11 clean sheets is unrivalled in the division. Reims have leaked more than one goal on only six occasions in their 28 outings in 2018/19.
Reims improving their final-third output
Guion has moved to address their lack of a serious final-third threat too. Only Nice had scored fewer goals than the Champagne club at the turn of the year but only Lille and PSG have found the net more often in 2019. Since the October international break, Reims have netted in all bar three games in Ligue 1.
Only Barcelona and Juventus are enjoying a longer unbeaten streak in Europe’s top five leagues and Reims head into Sunday’s showdown with Nantes having suffered only five defeats all campaign – three of which came against teams occupying berths in the top-seven.
Indeed, the competitive hosts have only twice lost since September and at their atmospheric Stade Auguste Delaune base they’ve W5-D3-L1 since November, making the 2.23 a little too big to ignore on another home success. After all, only the top-two give up fewer Expected Goals (xG) from open play.
Nantes can be opposed
Nantes have endured a difficult season but crucial points picked up against Ligue 1’s lesser lights have allowed Les Canaris to move clear of trouble. Vahid Halilhodzic’s men have tended to toil on their travels, mind, losing eight of their 14 road trips, including eight of 12 when excluding the bottom-two.
The visitors’ only goal in seven recent away days came from the penalty spot and Nantes generate one of the league’s lowest xG from open play returns, suggesting they may struggle to open up Reims’ excellent rearguard on Sunday.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Reims -0.50 at 2.230
Preview by: @MarkOHaire.