Saint-Etienne v Toulouse – Stade Geoffroy-Guichard at 18:00 GMT+1
St Etienne reaffirmed their role as favourites for fourth in Ligue 1 last weekend after bagging a fourth win in five by overcoming Reims 2-0 on the road. European Cup finalists in 1976, Sainte’s last continental sojourn took them to the Last 32 of the UEFA Europe League in 2016 but boss Jean-Louis Gasset is refusing to get carried away.
“We have 56 points and we’re among the six or seven clubs who are targeting Europe,” he said post-match. “We knew we’d have to put in a great game in order to get the three points. We were in control from a technical standpoint and built from the back with no panic.” Les Verts are only three point short of rivals Lyon.
ASSE dominated possession from the outset and took the lead in the 25th minute. Home goalkeeper Edouard Mendy kicked the ball straight to ASSE top scorer Wahbi Khazri. Mendy repelled the Tunisian international’s shot but succeeded only in pushing the ball out as far as Remy Cabelle who tapped home.
Reims spurned numerous opportunities to clear the ball early in the second-half but Khazri was on-hand to score a second for St Etienne as they held on for a deserved 2-0 triumph, recording their second successive shutout with 18-year-old centre-half William Saliba enjoying another fine game in Champagne country.
Sainte have secured only five victories away – three occurring at the bottom three in the division – from their fortress Stade Geoffroy-Guichard base, a record that’s held Gasset’s charges back this season. However, Les Verts are back on familiar territory on Saturday evening when Toulouse arrive.
Sainte appeal as hosts
St Etienne have secured W11-D2-L3 in their Loire home in Ligue 1. Exclude the three teams above Les Verts in the standings and that record enhances to W11-D2-L0, suggesting there’s plenty of value in supporting a home success this weekend with odds of 1.75 available on the hosts overcoming a -0.70 handicap.
Indeed, ignore all of Sainte’s fixtures with the top three teams in France – PSG, Lille and Lyon – and Les Verts have bagged W16-D8-L3. There’s a fair argument to be had for the former French champions to be labelled as ‘flat track bullies’ under Gasset’s watch and it’s a formula I’m keen to follow against Toulouse.
The visitors held Lille to a 0-0 draw last time out as hosts but since September’s international break Toulouse have returned just five triumphs from 29. Les Pitchouns have been beaten in half of their 16 away days and since the start of last season the guests have suffered defeat in 20/35 (57%) road trips.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Saint-Etienne -0.75 at 1.750
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