Lille v Saint-Etienne, Ligue 1, December 10, 2009
Lille, after a slow start to the French season, appear to have finally got their act together in recent weeks ahead of the visit of St. Etienne on Thursday night.
Blessed with a hugely talented squad, Rudi Garcia’s Lille struggled to get out of the starting blocks in the opening months of the new campaign. However, much like their form in seasons past where Les Dogues have been slow starters, Lille are now beginning their usual acceleration on to better things as the New Year comes around, and finally the signs of recovery are there for all to see.
At the heart of Lille’s upturn is their tremendous home record which has seen them lose just one of their last sixteen matches at home, with the Stade Lille-Metropole proving a fortress for the northern French outfit. As Lille’s home record is made that much more impressive by their recent performances – a four match winning streak that has claimed the scalps of Genoa, Bordeaux, Valenciennes and Lyon with a record of having scored 13 goals in those matches while only conceding three. (Lille are 4/5 to keep a clean sheet.)
Last weekend’s 4-3 victory of Lyon was particularly entertaining, with Ivorian forward Gervinho stealing all the headlines. The Lille forward (7 goals in 14 games) has begun blossoming over the last couple of months, and his confidence was on full view as he scored a brace of goals, including the stoppage time winner, against the French powerhouse Lyon. (Lille are 1/2 to score first.)
Aside from Gervinho, attention should also be paid to Lille’s brilliant midfield schemer Eden Hazard (pictured). The 18-year-old Belgian wonderkid was a thorn in the side of Lyon last weekend after coming on as a substitute for in-form striker Pierre-Alain Frau (7 goals in 11 games), and, with an ability to pop up all over the pitch and able to take on defenders at pace, St. Etienne will need to be on their guard to prevent one of Europe’s most promising talents dominating the match.
It is not all plain-sailing though for Lille, as they contend with several selection concerns. Goalkeeper Mickael Landreau is slowly regaining his form after having missed most of the season with a knee injury, while Nicolas Plestan, Stephane Dumont, Florent Balmont, Jerry Vandam and Rio Mavuba are touch-and-go to make the match after spending time on the sidelines with various injuries.
Life is much tougher for Alain Perrin’s St. Etienne. Perilously hovering just above the relegation zone for the second season running, injuries continue to wreak havoc in the Loire sideâ€™s squad with Augusto Fernandez the latest victim to fall to injury.
Having only scored once in their last six matches, more is needed from forwards Gonzalo Bergessio, Ilan Araujo andÂ Dimitri Payet if Les Verts are to turn their season around. (St. Etienne are 4/5 not to score.)
St. Etienne will also need to improve on their poor record against Lille in recent seasons if they are to get something out of the game. Lille have won six of the last eight meetings between the sides, drawing the other two matches.
101predicts: Lille 3 – St. Etienne 0 (10/1)
Full match odds here.