Nantes welcome Lens to the Stade de la Beaujoire on Friday evening for the opening game of Ligue 1’s 18th and penultimate round of games before the winter break.
The hosts finally ended their winless streak last weekend, whilst their upcoming opponents very nearly took three points off runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
In their defence, Nantes’ five-game run without a win was fairly understandable when you consider that it contained games against PSG, reigning champions Lille and second-placed Marseille.
The table-toppers required two late goals to beat them at the Parc des Princes, the champions could only manage a draw at home and Marseille were kept to a narrow 1-0 win, despite Nantes being reduced to 10 men.
Those results may even have built in confidence in the squad and, either way, their recent persistence paid off on Sunday when they ended their winless streak away at Lorient.
It took Les Canaris until the 83rd minute to break down their struggling hosts, but Wylan Cyprien’s turn and finish into the bottom corner was enough to secure a 1-0 victory and give Antoine Kombouare’s men breathing space in mid-table.
They will now have to repeat the feat against a tougher opposition, and one which they have not beaten since 2014.
Lens’ eye-catching start to the season – earning 18 points from the opening nine matches – had slowed slightly in recent weeks and they came into the match with PSG having managed just two wins in their last seven games.
As has often been the case with the league leaders this season, though, they allowed their opposition to take the lead, Seko Fofana’s strike finding its way past Keylor Navas to put the hosts deservedly ahead.
Les Sang et Or nearly doubled their lead when David Costa struck the post in the second half, but Mauricio Pochettino turned the tide with a triple substitution and two of those new players combined for a late equaliser.
Kylian Mbappe’s cross found the head of Georginio Wijnaldum and the Dutchman made it 1-1 in the 91st minute, resulting in a third successive draw for Lens.
Nonetheless, this remains an impressive campaign for a club only promoted to the top tier 18 months ago and Franck Haise will fancy his side’s chances of improving on the 1-1 draws the two sides produced in their encounters last campaign.
Nantes Ligue 1 form:
Lens Ligue 1 form:
We say: Nantes 0-1 Lens
Nantes will have gained some confidence from their recent win, but Lens likely gained more from their draw against the mighty PSG. We are backing them to defy their recent away record and secure a narrow victory.