Mark O'Haire - A Couple Of Christmas Crackers From The Continent

10 min

Football betting analyst Mark O’Haire shares his two favourite fancies from the European scene this weekend.

Rudderless Lyon To Drop Points In Reims

There’s no better time to be playing Lyon.

Les Gones might have scratchily booked their place in the Champions League knockout stages last week but the seven-time French champions are in crisis on and off the field.

Despite the big-money summer sales of Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy, OL were expected to be PSG’s major challengers for top honours in Ligue 1. Club legend Juninho Pernabucano returned as sporting director, appointing Sylvinho as head coach to plenty of fanfare as an optimistic new dawn broke over the club.

However, Sylvinho was axed after just 141 bewildering days in charge. Rudi Garcia was parachuted into the hot-seat, but supporters and ultra groups rebelled against the move given his recent failure at fierce rivals Marseille.

A vitriolic atmosphere has developed around Parc OL, intensified by dour football.

Lyon head coach Rudi Garcia has not exactly been ‘welcomed’ into the fold at Lyon

Anger has already spilled over between players and fans, whilst results have also been below-par. To make matters worse, Lyon suffered double heartache last weekend when losing both Memphis Depay, and big summer signing, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, to ruptured ACLs in the same encounter against Rennes.

Depay’s season-ending injury is bound to have a devastating effect.

The Dutch maverick has been on fire lately, scoring 14 goals in 17 games, rising to the role of captain and producing performances worthy of his younger reputation as a potential world-beater. His importance was again underlined on Sunday.

Depay went off at half-time as a sterile Les Gones side were beaten 1-0 at home by Rennes.

Without his spark, it’s impossible to see how OL can push on and progress.

Questions are now also being asked upon why two fitness coaches – Antonin Da Fonseca and Dimitri Farbos – were demoted upon Garcia’s arrival.

The loss to injury of the talismanic Memphis Depay is a killer blow for OL

So how will Lyon fare when travelling to one of Europe’s most well-drilled teams in Reims?

Under David Guion’s watch, the Champagne club have won promotion and consolidated with their renowned robust and ultra-organised approach, frustrating opposition attacks and making Les Rouges et Blancs difficult to beat.

Only returning to this level at the beginning of last term, Reims have been exceptional at their atmospheric Stade Auguste Delaune base (W11-D12-L5) with the likes of PSG, Lille, Marseille, Lyon and Monaco all failing to depart with maximum points. And Les Rouges et Blancs have impressed again this term.

Exclude all-conquering champions PSG and no Ligue 1 side gives up as few goalscoring opportunities as Reims.

Stade sit second in the rankings for Expected Goals (xG) against, xG from open play conceded, as well as shots allowed from inside the penalty area. If it needed to be emphasised again, Guion’s group are mightily tough to break down.

With that in mind, it makes total sense to keep the home side onside with a +0.25 start on the Asian Handicap line available at a kind 1.68.

We’ll make money should Reims avoid defeat against Lyon on Saturday night.

Cagliari Can Keep Udinese At Bay

Cagliari kicked off their centenary season with back-to-back home defeats – the first of which came against newly-promoted Brescia – and supporters could have been forgiven for expecting another long, hard slog this campaign, battling for survival.

The Sardinians haven’t finished in the top half of Serie A since 2008-09 and 15th-placed finishes in their last two seasons did not suggest the team were going to show remarkable improvements in 2019/20.

Yet with the midway point approaching, the Rossoblu are directly above Atalanta, Napoli and Milan.

Cagliari are just three points adrift of the Champions League places and it could have been even better had Rolando Maran’s men held on to a one-goal lead against Lazio on Monday evening. The Islanders conceded two late goals to suffer their first league loss since the 1st September, a 14-match streak (W8-D5-L1).

There was some cause for optimism when Radja Nainggolan returned on-loan. The Belgian has been at the heart of their sensational form, with goals and assists, but he’s not the only player to star. Brazilian striker João Pedro has already scored more goals this season than in any of his previous four at the club.

Rolando Maran has done a tremendous job with the Rossoblue this season.

Nobody would have foreseen the run the Sardinians have embarked upon and remarkably, Cagliari are yet to lose an away match this season (W3-D4-L0). The club’s underlying numbers suggest the Rossoblu may regress sooner than later but they should at least be well capable of keeping Udinese at bay here.

The visitors are 1.75 with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start on Saturday afternoon.

That means, we’ll make a half-stakes profit should the game end all-square with a full pay-out earned should Cagliari pocket a fourth victory on their travels this term. The Sardinians have lost once in 14 against teams in fourth and below.

If Cagliari are impressing the neutrals, Udinese continue to dither in the lower reaches of Serie A. The Zebrette have tabled only four triumphs this term (W4-D3-L9) and managed only 11 goals in their 16 encounters.

Igor Tudor has already been dismissed with Luca Gotti taking charge at the start of November. The new boss has picked up five points from six fixtures with his team dismantled by Juventus in their most recent outing; goals continue to be Udinese’s largest challenge and that could prove their downfall here.

The hosts have only scored more than a solitary strike once this season.

Considering Cagliari have found the back of the net in each of their past 15 fixtures, it may take something special for Udinese to collect top honours.

Recommended Bets

  • Reims +0.25 – 4 units @ 1.68
  • Cagliari +0.25 – 4 units @ 1.75