Ligue 1 Tips: Depleted PSG set to struggle

After picking five winners from seven selections across the opening two weekends of of the season, James Eastham reveals the latest smart bets from France's top division...

Vieira ready for another good day

Montpellier vs Nice
Sat, 16:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 3 and Betfair Live Video

We successfully backed Nice on each of the opening two weekends of the season and are happy to do so a third time as Patrick Vieira's Riviera boys looked underrated yet again.

Despite having a 100% record across those opening two games Nice are 3.65 to collect three points this weekend, with Montpellier 2.28 and The Draw 3.35. There are plenty of reasons why Nice will be confident and the odds on the visitors are too good to overlook.

Nice's summer transfer policy is already bearing fruit, with several arrivals catching the eye. Morgan Schneiderlin has added authority and experience in midfield, while striker Amine Gouiri - a £7 million signing from Lyon - has scored twice in two games and netted for France U21s earlier this week as well.

Gouiri's an injury doubt heading into the game but Nice have alternatives in attack, such as last summer's £12 million signing from Lorient Alexis Claude-Maurice in attack. Nice have the makings of a side capable of challenging for a top-three spot and this is the sort of game where they'll now expect rather than hope to pick up points.

Montpellier have had just one outing this season so far, and were outclassed at Rennes on that occasion (1-2) a fortnight ago. There were added problems for manager Michel Der Zakarian to be worried about during the international break, too, when his players lost 3-1 at home to Ligue 2 Clermont in a behind-closed-doors friendly.

The 3.65 on Nice will attract attention, and that's understandable. Alternatively use the big odds on the visitors to back Nice at 2.60 on the Draw No Bet market. With this selection you'll get your stakes back if the game ends in a draw and make a profit if Nice win.

Marseille the smart bet in Sunday thriller

PSG vs Marseille
Sun, 20:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 1 and Betfair Live Video

At the time of writing we don't yet know how PSG will line-up at home against Marseille on Sunday night but Paris' performance in their rearranged game at Lens (1-0 defeat) on Thursday night was really poor by their usual standards and there's absolutely no appeal in backing hosts that have been ravaged by positive covid tests over the past fortnight.

No fewer than seven members of Thomas Tuchel's star-studded squad - Keylor Navas, Marquinhos, Leandro Paredes, Angel Di Maria, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi - sat out that tame loss at Lens owing to positive covid tests, and the situation might be similarly desperate for PSG this weekend as well.

Mbappe is already ruled out of the match, and while PSG fans are hopeful that Neymar, Di Maria, Paredes and possibly one other player will be available, Tuchel has already hinted that few or none of these players will start because they have trained so little over the past 10 days.

Marseille have far fewer problems and will relish this rare opportunity to face their fiercest rivals with a genuinely good chance of picking up points. Andre Villas-Boas' side were far from perfect in winning 3-2 at Brest on their first outing of the season a fortnight ago, but the attitude and commitment of the players was faultless, and the two-goal performance of France World Cup-winning winger Florian Thauvin (pictured above) after nearly a year on the sidelines through injury was an impressive way for the ex-Newcastle United man to signal his return.

Despite having such a depleted squad PSG are still 1.75 favourites to collect all three points. Given that their preparations for this game have been so difficult for more than 10 days, laying the hosts at such shorts odds is a tempting proposition.

Alternative selections include backing Marseille on the Draw No Bet market - this selection should be available at around 3.40 when there's liquidity in the market - or backing Marseille +1.0 on the Asian Handicap market at around 1.80.

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