Hosts too strong on opening night
Monaco vs Nantes
Fri. 20:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 2 and Betfair Live Video
The new Ligue 1 season kick-offs on Friday night and the opening fixture appears a mismatch of considerable proportions.
Hosts Monaco finished third in 2020-21 and their squad and ideal starting line-up appear at least as strong as last season.
Sporting director Paul Mitchell and manager Niko Kovac are targeting another podium finish and everything about the way Monaco have conducted themselves during pre-season – retaining every single one of their top players while strengthening the squad in a couple of positions where they required greater competition – suggests they will be top-three contenders once again.
Competitive action has already begun for Monaco and they were impressively untroubled in winning 2-0 away to Sparta Prague in the Champions League third qualifying round on Tuesday night.
What a contrast with Nantes. The visitors in yellow and green – nicknamed the Canaries – go into the season with several clouds hanging over their heads and concerns about whether they’ll be able to survive in the top flight.
Money is tight so manager Antoine Kombouare has been unable to strengthen a squad that stayed up last season only thanks to a narrow relegation play-off win over Ligue 2 promotion hopefuls Toulouse.
Some fans group plan to boycott home games this season, while supporters’ protests against loathed club owner Waldemar Kita will be a distraction during the months ahead.
Nantes’ star striker Randal Kolo Muani has only just returned from Olympic Games duty for France so is likely to be used sparingly.
Fellow attacker Kalifa Coulibaly – an important presence alongside Kolo Muani last season – has been ruled out by injury.
It all points to a comfortable home win. Monaco should have too much class, confidence and form for the visitors, who look second-best in virtually every area of the pitch.
If the 1.4740/85 odds on a Monaco victory are too short for you, consider backing the hosts on the Asian Handicap. With our selection, you’ll get your stakes back if Monaco win by a single goal, and make a profit if Monaco win by two or more goals. For a full guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.
Underrated Lorient the smart selection
St Etienne vs Lorient
Sun, 14:00 BST
Live on Betfair Live Video
St Etienne are clear favourites to make a winning start to the new season when they host Lorient on Sunday afternoon but it’s hard to know why.
Les Verts have had a wretched pre-season and the lack of new signings since the end of 2020-21 suggests a side that barely impressed in the last campaign will be even more limited this time around.
St Etienne posted a W1-D2-L3 record from their pre-season friendlies but the only times they avoided defeat were when they faced opposition from an inferior division. Against sides that operate at the same level as them their record was a dismal W0-D0-L3.
Several experienced players, such as right-back Mathieu Debuchy, have left St Etienne over the summer and the side that takes to the field may have an experimental feel to it.
Lorient look better prepared for their season opener. They were unbeaten in five pre-season friendlies (W3-D2-L0) and have a much more settled line-up: all but one of the players likely to be named in manager Christophe Pelissier’s starting line-up were on the books last season, meaning there ought to be greater understanding and familiarity between the players in the away ranks.
St Etienne are 2.35/4 to win, with Lorient 3.259/4 and The Draw 3.55/2. At those odds, Lorient and The Draw are the more appealing selections.
Alternatively, support Lorient with a small start on the Asian Handicap. With our selection, you’ll make a profit if Lorient win or if the game ends all-square.