After the final international break of the calendar year, Robert Bhamber returns with his Ligue 1 weekend preview.
Friday: Metz (9th) vs PSG (2nd) (19:30 GMT)
Champions PSG travel to the Stade Saint-Symphorien to take on Metz on Friday night, knowing that a point, or better, will see them overhaul Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 for a short while at least. It might not be a simple task for the capital club though, as Metz remain unbeaten at home in the league so far this campaign. They have been in decent form since returning to the top flight in the summer, sitting ninth in the table, and manager Albert Cartier will be hoping his side can snatch something from this match.
Laurent Blanc, meanwhile, will expect his side to win this game and put all of the pressure onto Marseille ahead of their match against Bordeaux on Sunday. He should also be able to call upon star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic after he returned from injury playing for Sweden during the recent international break, with PSG looking to further extend their unbeaten record this season.
– Metz have failed to score in four of their last five league matches.
– They have won four and drawn two of their home league games this campaign.
– PSG have not yet been top of the league this season.
– The champions have failed to score in just one Ligue 1 game in 2014/15, in a 0-0 draw away at Evian in Week 3.
– The last time this match was played was during the 2007/08 season, when Metz held PSG to a goalless draw.
Saturday: Bastia (15th) vs Lyon (3rd) (16:00 GMT)
Bastia will try and put an end to Lyon’s run of good form when they visit the Stade Armand Cesari on Saturday afternoon. The hosts, who are still without a manager after Claude Makelele’s dismissal before the international break, have struggled this season, winning just three of their 13 league matches. However, the temporary management team of youth academy director Ghislain Printant and goalkeeping coach Herve Sekli masterminded a 2-0 victory over Montpellier last time out. They will be hoping for an identical result this weekend.
Lyon, however, head into this match in a rich vein of form; they are currently on a nine-game unbeaten run and have subsequently surged up the table in the last couple of months, now finding themselves just two points behind league leaders Marseille. Like PSG, they could also overtake Marseille before they play on Sunday, but they will have to gain all three points to do so.
– Bastia have scored just 11 goals in 13 league games so far this campaign.
– They have won nine points from 21 available on home turf.
– Lyon have won seven and drawn two during their nine-game unbeaten run.
– They have scored 27 league goals so far this season, the joint-best tally along with Marseille.
– Last season, Lyon won this match 3-1.
Saturday: Nice (12th) vs Reims (10th) (19:00 GMT)
Nice will be looking to win in the league for the first time since their 7-2 thrashing of Guingamp when they host Reims at the Allianz Riviera on Saturday evening. Since their eye-catching win in Week 11, Claude Puel’s men have lost to both Lyon and Evian in the league, entering the international break on a negative note.
Reims, however, are unbeaten in their last five league games, and Jean-Luc Vasseur will be aiming for a victory here to consolidate their position in the top half of the table. They head into this weekend in 10th position, but could jump to as high as seventh if they take all three points, something they have done on five occasions so far this campaign.
– Nice’s 7-2 win over Guingamp is their only league win in their last five attempts.
– They have taken 10 points from a possible 21 on home territory.
– Reims have won three and drawn twice during their five-game unbeaten run.
– However, they have only won one league away game all season, at Lorient in Week 6.
Saturday: Lorient (20th) vs Lens (19th) (19:00 GMT)
Lorient will be hoping to put an end to their terrible form when they welcome fellow strugglers Lens to the Stade du Moustoir. The hosts are currently bottom of the league, having won only one of their last nine matches, losing the other eight. Sylvain Ripoll will be desperate to see a change in his side’s fortunes, especially against the side one place and one point above them in the table.
Lens are also having a tough season, with the newly-promoted side having won just three times since returning to the top-flight. They have suffered losses to Marseille and Bordeaux in their last two league outings, falling into the bottom three as a result. However, Antoine Kombouare will be expecting his side to get something here, considering Lorient’s dreadful form right now.
– Lorient have won three, drawn one and lost nine in the league so far this campaign.
– They have lost each of their last four home league games.
– Lens have spent all but one week of this season in the bottom half.
– They have taken seven points from 21 available on the road this season.
– The last time this match was played was during the 2010/11 season, with Lorient emerging 3-0 winners.
Saturday: Monaco (8th) vs Caen (17th) (19:00 GMT)
Monaco will be aiming to climb further up the table as they take on Caen at the Stade Louis II this weekend. The hosts are slowly recovering from a slow start to the campaign and are now unbeaten in their last five league outings. However, the last two of these games have ended as draws, something manager Leonardo Jardim needs to change if his side are to continue progressing and eventually catch up with the leading pack.
Caen, meanwhile, sit 17th in the league heading into the weekend, narrowly avoiding the relegation zone on goal difference only. Their last two league games have ended in defeat and the newly-promoted side won’t be expected by many to take anything from this match either. Patrice Garande’s men have won just once in their last 10 Ligue 1 games.
– Monaco have lost four league matches this season, three of which came in the first five weeks.
– Since then, they have moved from 19th up to 8th in the table.
– Caen have won only three league games so far, away at Evian and Reims and at home against Lorient.
– They have won nine points from a possible 21 on the road this season.
– The last time this match was played was in Ligue 2 during the 2012/13 campaign, with Caen winning 1-0.
Saturday: Guingamp (18th) vs Rennes (7th) (19:00 GMT)
Guingamp will look to escape the relegation zone with a victory against visiting Rennes at the Stade du Roudourou on Saturday. The hosts have struggled so far this season and were on the wrong end of a 7-2 scoreline against Nice in Week 11, but have won two of their last four league games, something that will give manager Jocelyn Gourvennec hope that they can take something from this game.
Visitors Rennes have been in solid form thus far, sitting seventh in the table, just behind the leading pack that starts with St Etienne in sixth. They are unbeaten in their last five, winning three and drawing two, so manager Philippe Montanier will be expecting another positive result this weekend.
– Guingamp have spent nine of the 13 weeks of the campaign so far in the bottom three.
– They have won just six points out of 21 available in home league games this season, winning two and losing five.
– Rennes have a similar away record, taking six points from 21 as well.
– They have won one, drawn three and lost three on the road.
– Last season, Guingamp won this match 2-0.
Sunday: Nantes (5th) vs St Etienne (6th) (13:00 GMT)
Nantes welcome St Etienne to the Stade de la Beaujoire on Sunday with both sides looking to continue their impressive starts to the season. Nantes have been very good defensively throughout, conceding just nine times, a record that is bettered only by the unbeaten PSG. They are one place and one point above their opponents in the table heading into the weekend.
St Etienne come into this match on the back of two draws against tough opposition, holding both Lille and Monaco at 1-1. Given the form and consistency of Nantes this season, this looks set to be another match that will be far from straightforward for Christophe Galtier’s men, despite them being unbeaten in their last four league games.
– Nantes have won six league games this campaign, five of which came from a single-goal margin.
– They have lost just twice, at home to Monaco and away at Lille.
– Both sides have yet to drop outside of the top half this campaign.
– St Etienne have not scored in the first 30 minutes of a Ligue 1 game this season.
– Last season, St Etienne won this match 3-1.
Sunday: Montpellier (13th) vs Toulouse (11th) (16:00 GMT)
Montpellier take on Toulouse at the Altrad Stadium with both teams looking to move into the top half of the table. Montpellier, still playing at the Altrad Stadium due to the flood damage at the Stade de la Mosson, have lost three of their last four league matches, so manager Rolland Courbis will want to see an improved performance from his side this weekend.
Meanwhile, Toulouse ended a three match losing streak as they defeated Metz 3-0 at home last time out. While they may head into this game two places above Montpellier in the table, the sides are level on 17 points. Alain Casanova will view this match as one his side are more than capable of winning, even despite having lost their last two away league games.
– Montpellier have scored six goals less than Toulouse in the league, but the visitors have conceded four more.
– Four of their five league wins this season have come in home fixtures.
– Toulouse’s only points on the road this season have come from wins at Rennes and St Etienne.
– They have scored seven and conceded 10 in their away league games so far.
– Last season, Montpellier won this match 2-1.
Sunday: Marseille (1st) vs Bordeaux (4th) (20:00 GMT)
League leaders Marseille take on Bordeaux at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday, knowing that they may no longer be on top by the time the match kicks off. Both PSG and Lyon could have overtaken Marseille by Sunday, meaning that all of the pressure is likely to be on Marcelo Bielsa’s men to reclaim their spot. Two losses in their last three league games have allowed the others to close the gap and Bielsa will want his team to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
Visitors Bordeaux aren’t doing too badly themselves, sitting fourth in the table, four points behind Marseille. This match, therefore, represents a massive opportunity for Willy Sagnol to move closer to the front three and they head into the game having won their last two league fixtures, against Toulouse and Lens respectively.
– Marseille have scored 27 league goals this campaign, a joint-high total along with Lyon.
– Their only home defeat in the league came in Week 2 against Montpellier.
– Bordeaux spent three weeks on top of Ligue 1 themselves earlier in the season.
– They have won 10 points from a possible 21 in away league games so far this campaign.
– Last season, this match ended 2-2.
* Lille vs Evian has been suspended until Wednesday, January 7 due to the Davis Cup final taking place at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy this weekend.