Lille v Nantes
Lille are one of the early surprise packages in France. Les Dogues were embroiled in a relegation battle last season but early signs suggest the current crop can at least table a cushy mid-table finish this term.
The campaign might still be in its infancy but LOSC are PSG’s closest challengers at the top of the table having clinched three victories from their first five fixtures (W3-D1-L1), including last weekend’s 3-2 success at Amiens that was capped off by a Nicolas Pepe hat-trick.
After slipping to their first defeat of the season at Angers just before the international break, Lille were seeking to get back on track and Christophe Galtier’s men were clear and deserved winners despite two of their goals arriving from the penalty spot.
LOSC are exciting and entertaining when going forward, whilst giving up very few goalscoring opportunities. Indeed, Les Dogues have been dominant for the most part in their opening five encounters, posting a hugely impressive 85% Expected Goals from open play ratio – a divisional best in Ligue 1.
Should Saturday afternoon’s hosts be capable of sustaining their current form, picking up a result at home to Nantes should be well within their capabilities and odds around the 1.87 mark on Lille to cover a -0.50 Asian Handicap hurdle holds plenty of appeal.
The visitors Nantes spent heavily, by their standards, this summer.
Marquee signings Anthony Limbombe and Lucas Evangelista have impressed and look good value for their fees, but manager Miguel Cardoso is struggling to wring the best from his side tactically.
Despite a surfeit of attackers, Cardoso played a negative 4-3-3 at home to promoted Reims, with Limbombe and Gabriel Boschilia only featuring from the bench. Edouard Mendy did impress in goal for Reims, but Nantes have only scored five goals in as many matches.
The guests have only played Monaco of note and yet are still generating a paltry 0.46 xG from open play average per-game and their 33% ratio return is the third-worst in Ligue 1 during the opening stanza.
The out-of-from Les Canaris are easily opposed this weekend.
Levante v Sevilla
Levante bounced straight back to La Liga at the first time of asking and consolidated their place at Spain’s top table last term, finishing above the drop-zone by 17 points.
However, it wasn’t quite so straightforward as the Frogs were petering on the brink of the bottom-three before a coaching change was made ahead of the final furlong. The Valencia-based club had won just three of 27 games under Juan Muniz, prompting the hierarchy to make a necessary change.
Paco Lopez took the reigns and Levante’s fortunes changed almost overnight. The new boss signed off the season with a remarkable eight wins from 11 games, including a 5-4 triumph against Barcelona – the champions’ only league loss of the campaign. At home, the Frogs were particularly lethal, taking top honours in all five fixtures, including against the aforementioned Catalans and Sunday’s guests Sevilla.
Unlike the majority of relegation battlers, the Frogs weren’t interested in trying to grind out results. Instead, the minnows went on the offensive in almost every encounter, playing with style, swagger and confidence, providing plenty of problems from unsuspecting opponents.
So having started 2018/19 with a remarkable 3-0 win away at Real Betis, most supporters hoped little Levante would be able to continue to push forward. But losses at home to Celta Vigo and away at Espanyol followed although the Frogs did hold neighbours Valencia to a draw at their last Ciutat de Valencia home.
They still boast plenty of final-third ability with the likes of Enis Bardhi, Jose Luis Morales and Emmanuel Boateng tricky customers, particularly in their own backyard, and the return from suspension of Coke in defence should stand them in good stead to pick up a positive result from this encounter.
Sevilla romped to a cushy home success in the Europa League on Thursday night but are yet to really convince in La Liga under Pablo Machin. Machin worked wonders to guide Girona into the top-half last term, implementing a wing-back system that few Spanish sides could adjust to.
But Machin’s yet to find the magic formula with Los Rojiblancos. After rolling over newly-promoted Rayo Vallecano, the Andalusians have picked up a solitary league point and failed to score in games against Villarreal, local rivals Betis and Getafe. A tough schedule but performances have been mixed.
Sevilla are giving up 0.92 Expected Goals from open play per-game, which is fairly chunky for a team with top-four aspirations, and are without the injured Gabriel Mercado this weekend. With leading defender Clement Lenglet departing in the summer, the visitors are noticeably weaker at the heart of defence.
Los Rojiblancos are renowned poor travellers too, losing 50% of their away La Liga games dating back to 2015/16, including 12 defeats in 21 road trips since the beginning of 2017/18.
So I’m happy to have Levante onside with the half a goal Asian Handicap start.
This is a selection that’s proven profitable in 14/21 (67%) home Levante games and 14/21 (67%) Sevilla away outings since the start of last season – that 67% success rate.
- Lille v Nantes – Lille -0.50 Asian Handicap (1.87)
- Levante v Sevilla – Levante +0.50 Asian Handicap (1.76)