Ligue 1 Betting: Marseille and Montpellier thumb their noses at rivals
After making a profit on six of the past seven matchdays, James Eastham picks out the best bets on the latest round of fixtures in France's top flight...
L'OM to march onwards
Marseille vs Nantes (2nd vs 12th) Saturday, 16:30 GMT Live on Betfair Live Video
"Heading straight for the Champions League," ran the headline in sports daily L'Equipe last Monday, the morning after Marseille had come from behind to beat top-three rivals Lille 2-1 away from home to take another giant step towards a podium finish.
Marseille sit second in the Ligue 1 standings with 52 points, a whole 12 points ahead of fourth-placed Lille, with only 13 games to go. Claiming the runners-up spot would be a fantastic achievement for manager Andre Villas-Boas, who has worked miracles on a small budget by getting every ounce of potential out of this side.
Marseille are unbeaten in 14 Ligue 1 matches (W11-D3-L0) and a strong selection to collect another three points this weekend. Their levels of focus and motivation have been outstanding for months, and they're boosted by the fact that star player Dimitri Payet (pictured below) - an outside bet to claim a France squad place at Euro 2020 - returns from injury. If they were able to beat Lille without him last weekend, they should b confident of collecting all three points against Nantes with him back in the side this weekend.
Nantes are in that mid-table zone where they're virtually assured of avoiding relegation but too far off the pace to be confident that they can claim a European place. Christian Gourcuff's visitors have moments where they're dangerous, but the odds of 1.83 on a Marseille win are too good to overlook.
Hosts' misery to continue
Angers vs Montpellier (14th vs 6th) Saturday, 19:00 GMT Live on Betfair Live Video
It's surprising to find Angers are favourites this weekend as they go into this fixture in poor form. The hosts have lost four games in a row, their 10-match record is W1-D3-L6 and they have problems off the pitch, too, with club president Said Chabane the subject of a police inquiry into allegations of sexual assault.
It's obvious to anyone following French football right now that the Chabane affair has knocked the club off-course, and performances on the pitch were already erratic before the story broke. It's hard to see Angers mustering the energy and quality needed to collect three points right now.
Montpellier are well-equipped to take advantage. Top scorer Andy Delort returns after missing the side's 1-0 defeat at Monaco last weekend and Montpellier are within striking distance of a European place. Michel Der Zakarian's visitors are capable of playing swift, attacking football and will be confident of avoiding defeat at the very least.
The best options are to back Montpellier to win at 3.30 or back Montpellier on the Draw No Bet market at 2.30. With the second selection, you'll get your stakes back if the game ends all-square and make a profit if Montpellier win.
Resurgent Nimes the smart selection
Rennes vs Nimes (3rd vs 17th) Sunday, 16:00 GMT Live on BT Sport ESPN and Betfair Live Video
Rennes are odds-on to win this weekend even though Nimes go into the game on a run of four straight victories. Bernard Blaquart's visitors are in their best form of the season and should pose a greater threat to Rennes than the market suggests.
Nimes have played some excellent football during this current winning run, seeing off Nice (3-1) and Monaco (3-1) while picking up maximum points against relegation rivals Angers (1-0) and Dijon (2-0). They'll travel to Rennes in confident mood and have the tools to cause Rennes problems.
The hosts have failed to score in their last three matches, losing twice and drawing once. It was one of the shock announcements of the Ligue 1 season when highly-regarded Rennes president Olivier Letang was sacked a fortnight ago, and it's fairly obvious that some of the players that were close to Letang have yet to fully digest the news.
Laying Rennes at 1.75 is worth considering (for full details on how to back and lay on Betfair, click here). An alternative would be to either back The Draw at 3.70, or back Nimes +0.5&+1.0 Asian Handicap. With the Asian Handicap selection, you'd lose only half your stakes if Nimes lost by a single goal, and make a profit if Nimes won or if the game ended in a draw.