Stade de Reims make the journey across to the west of France to take on Nantes in Ligue 1 action this weekend, in what is one of 7 top-flight French football matches being played this Sunday. With just 10 games of the season left to go, there are still things to play for at both ends of the table. Although PSG are on track for what would be their 11th overall league title and 8th since 2013, the title is not sewn up just yet. They are 7 points ahead of 2nd-place Marseille and should ultimately win it, but there is the potential for a slip-up with one or two tricky games still to play. And at the foot of the table, it is a six-team shootout for the four relegation spots this season, with Angers, Ajaccio, Troyes, Auxerre, Stade Brest and Strasbourg all currently in the relegation dogfight. Angers, with just a pitiful 10 points to their name this season, are practically down already, but with only 5 points separating Ajaccio in 19th place and Strasbourg in 15th, it is still all to play for. However, the focus of our preview is the midtable clash between Nantes and Stade de Reims – a match in which there are really no stakes.
The performances of both these clubs this season is a stark contrast to how they performed last season – Nantes finished in the top half of the table in 9th, while Stade de Reims finished in 12th. However, the roles have been reversed this season, with a revitalised Reims currently occupying 9th place, while Nantes are down in 14th place having struggled for a majority of the season. The improvement of Reims has been mostly down to the wise managerial appointment of Will Still, with the rookie coach having guided the club to Ligue 1 safety this season while also picking up some impressive results along the way. Still’s fine work has ensured that Reims have not fallen below 11th place since Matchday 14, and until their recent 2-1 defeat to Marseille, they had been on a 19-game unbeaten run (17 games of which Still oversaw) that stretched all the way back to September. Key to that unbeaten run has been the talents of Reims’ attackers, with loanee Folarin Balogun having scored an astonishing 17 league goals this season, while winger Junya Ito has contributed 5 goals and 5 assists. Expect the duo to play a central role in what should be a simple Reims victory this weekend.
Nantes are 5 places below their opponents in 14th, with 30 points to their name. They are however, just 4 points ahead of the team behind them, relegation-threatened Strasbourg. Now Nantes should have just enough quality within their ranks to ensure that they do not get sucked into the relegation fight, but they are in a very precarious position nonetheless. However, despite facing some tricky fixtures against the likes of Lille, Monaco and Montpellier in the coming weeks, Nantes also still have to play 5 of the current bottom 6 sides – if Antoine Kombouare’s men can pick up even two or three wins from those matches, it should be enough to see them safe and avoid getting sucked into the relegation battle. However, they face a tough test this weekend in Still’s well-drilled Reims side, and considering the fact that they have failed to win in any of their last 5 league matches, we expect Nantes to have a tough weekend.
Ultimately, Stade de Reims should emerge from this match as the victors. Their impressive league form over the past 6 months coupled with the poor form of Nantes in comparison is a pairing that should see Reims win at the Stade de la Beaujoire this weekend. Reims did win 1-0 in the reverse fixture back in November, and have won 6 of the last 10 meetings between the two sides, and we expect them to beat Nantes once again. Nantes are priced at 21/10 odds to pick up what would be a surprise win, while the visitors are priced at 13/10 odds for the victory.