Ligue 1 Betting: African Nations Cup impact felt as French top-flight returns

James Eastham looks at the smart bets ahead of Ligue 1's first round of matches of the New Year...

Severely weakened Metz set to struggle

Metz vs Strasbourg (18th vs 10th)
Sun, 14:00 GMT
Live on Betfair Live Video

Metz are one of the Ligue 1 sides most badly hit by the African Cup of Nations and that plays into Strasbourg's hands ahead of this derby in eastern France.

Seven Metz players are on international duty in Cameroon, four of whom - centre-backs Boubakar Kouyate and Dylan Bronn, midfielder Habib Maiga and playmaker Farid Boulaya - would have started if available this weekend.

Central defence is an area of particular concern: the lack of depth behind absent duo Kouyate and Bronn means Metz boss Frederic Antonetti may have to abandon his preferred back-three system.

Strasbourg are weaker at either end of the field, too, although the visitors look better-equipped to cope.

Centre-back Alexander Djiku (Ghana) and striker Habib Diallo (Senegal) are unavailable, and the pair's absence makes Strasbourg weaker.

Djiku is a consistent defensive performer, while Diallo has scored eight times in Ligue 1 this season at a rate of a goal every 135 minutes.

Former France international striker Kevin Gameiro can deputise in attack, though, and Strasbourg will rightly expect to spend much of the game on the front foot, meaning that defensive flaws can be overcome.

Crowd restrictions brought in to contain covid are a further blow to Metz.

A nationwide attendance limit of 5,000 has been introduced, meaning Metz will enjoy far less support than they normally would for this fiercely-contested derby.

At just under evens, Strasbourg - eight places and 10 points ahead of Metz in the Ligue 1 standings heading into the weekend's fixtures - are a good bet to collect all three points.

Low goals the smart selection

Lyon vs PSG (13th vs 1st)
Sun, 19:45 GMT
Live on BT Sport 2 and Betfair Live Video

Ligue 1's big Sunday night showdown may serve up plenty of entertainment but going low on the goals market is still a worthwhile selection.

Lyon and PSG both like to play on the front foot, but that doesn't mean the match will be as high-scoring as the market suggests.

Attacking absences in both camps are the main reason to oppose a high-scoring clash.

There's bound to a knock-on effect in front of goal with so many players ruled out.

For Lyon, strikers Karl Toko Ekambi and Islam Slimani are on African Nations Cup duty for their countries in Cameroon.

For PSG, Neymar and Angel Di Maria are out, while Lionel Messi may not start having only just returned from covid isolation in South America.

The quintet named above have scored 13 goals between them this season, which is 20 per cent of these two sides' total league goals.

Goals can never be ruled out when Kylian Mbappe's on the scene, of course.

The 23-year-old made a stunning start to 2022 with a hat-trick in PSG's 4-0 French Cup win at amateurs Vannes last weekend.

Mbappe has 18 goals in 25 appearances for PSG in all competitions this season and will be the major threat here.

The France superstar cannot do it alone, however, and the absence of so many other key attacking players makes low goals the smart bet.

The historic stats are also marginally in your favour.

Lyon vs PSG clashes have not been as high-scoring as many people might believe.

Three of the last 10 head-to-heads have featured under three goals, with four featuring exactly three goals, and three featuring four or more goals.

Or, put another way: our selection would have paid out in seven of the last 10 head-to-head encounters.

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