Ligue 1 Tips: Nice to set the standards on opening weekend

The 2020-21 French League season kicks-off on Friday night and there are plenty of selections across the opening round of fixtures worthy of attention, writes James Eastham...

Superior visitors the smart pick

Dijon vs Angers
Saturday, 16:00 BST
Live on Betfair Live Video

Dijon have team news issues that will hamper their chances of picking up any points this weekend. Central defender Nayef Aguerd left to join Rennes over the summer and Dijon have yet to sign a replacement.

Dijon have problems at the other end of the pitch, too, as three of their top four scorers from last season are ruled out: Stephy Mavididi (eight goals), who was on loan at Dijon, has joined Montpellier from parent club Juventus for £5.5 million, while Mama Balde (six goals) and Julio Tavares (five goals) are absent through injury.

Angers are unchanged from last season in all outfield positions and stronger in goal thanks to the £7 million arrival of Paul Bernardoni from Bordeaux (via a loan spell at Nimes). The 23-year-old is one of France's best young goalkeepers will make Angers more difficult to beat.

Dijon are 2.86, with Angers 2.82 and The Draw 3.30. Angers are worth considering on the Draw No Bet market, which provides the safety net of getting your stakes back if the game ends all-square.

Brest your best bet

Nimes vs Brest
Sun, 14:00 BST
Live on Betfair Live Video

Nimes' ideal starting line-up looks no stronger than last season when they finished 18th so another campaign of struggle near the foot of the table is likely. In contrast, Brest, who finished 14th, have improved: Ronael Pierre-Gabriel (Mainz) and Christophe Herelle (Nice) are good signings in defence, while striker Ivan Cardona, who scored six goals from just 15 starts and six substitute appearances last season, will be more prolific as he will play more frequently.

Brest will be confident having earned a deserved 2-1 win away to Lille in their final pre-season friendly last weekend. After the game Brest manager Olivier Dall'Oglio said that his team were in good shape for the start of the season and we share his optimism.

Brest are 3.35 outsiders, with Nimes 2.32. Those large odds on Brest throw up the opportunity to back the visitors on the Asian Handicap. Brest +0&+0.5 will allow you to make a profit as long as the visitors avoid defeat. For a full guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.

Lorient a thrilling pick

Lorient vs Strasbourg
Sun, 14:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 1 and Betfair Live Video

Lorient are newly promoted and wasted no time this summer showing they mean business. By spending £8 million on Clermont striker Adrian Grbic they secured one of the most exciting signings of the window.

Quentin Boisgard, Stephane Diarra and Thomas Monconduit have also arrived, adding quality to a side that includes excellent professionals such as left-back Vincent Le Goff (pictured above) and played some entertaining football in Ligue 2 last season. Playmaker Enzo Le Fee and wide attacker Yoane Wissa will prove great foils for Grbic, the trio's combined firepower meaning that Lorient are capable of staying up.

Strasbourg's pre-season has been disrupted by covid-19 cases and, unlike Lorient, they have been unable to strengthen in the transfer market. The chances of the upbeat hosts making a positive return to the top flight look good. Back Lorient in the Draw No Bet market.

A new era begins at Nice

Nice vs Lens
Sun, 16:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 2 and Betfair Live Video

As we detailed in our 2020-21 pre-season guide, Nice embarked on Ligue 1's most ambitious summer spending spree and manager Patrick Vieira hopes the outlay will result in a challenge for a top-three position from les Aiglons (the Eagles) in the months ahead.

Illustrating just how much competition for places there now is at Nice, it was players that were actually on the books before the transfer window opened that particularly caught the eye in Nice's impressive 3-2 final pre-season friendly win over Rennes last Saturday: the pace and dribbling skills of Youcef Atal saw the Algeria international win two penalties that striker Kasper Dolberg thumped home, and promising France youth international midfielder Kephren Thuram found the net with a lovely chip.

Lens are promoted from Ligue 2 but haven't strengthened as much as many expected. One player that will be keen to impress is new striker Ignatius Ganago, who joined Lens from this weekend's opponents Nice over the summer for a fee of around £5.4 million. Overall, however, Nice look the stronger side, and are a worthwhile selection at bigger than evens.

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