France Ligue 2: Le Havre - Nimes
I previewed Nimes home game with Laval last weekend .............
"I wrote a lengthy preview of Nimes' trip to then leaders Nancy, who went on to win Ligue 2 by four points, back in late January, in that I spoke about Nimes great goalscoring form and how they had made a habit of running into form through the second half of recent campaigns. They collected 34 points from 18 starts from the end of November, which is more or less top 3 shape for half a season , add in their 8 point deduction and they would have finished 9th and given all that the players had to deal with in early season ( confidence was shot from how the previous campaign ended and they took until October 23rd to get to +1 point !), that was a fantastic achievement. They got great support through this improved run, fans bought into the great escape/ them against us attitude and five figure crowds (big numbers for them and L2) were turning up and really getting behind the team. What could have been a disaster, actually turned into a campaign full of promise and hope for the future.
Head coach Bernard Blaquart has been busy over the summer and looks to have upgraded the backline and the addition of two experienced full backs in Gael Angoula and Zie Diabate looks good business. Up front, the signing of Rachid Alioui is promising, he was top scorer for Laval last season, which. additionally weakens the visitors, the striker hit the ground running this time last year, with five goals and two assists in the first 11 games and he was playing for a team who do not score many (just 12 in total through that sequence).
Laval just do not win enough games and are too timid at times, drawing 50% of all games in the last two seasons, averaging exactly one goal per game (less last season) and too often settling for one point, when, with a little more enterprise, three could have been there for the taking. In addition to Alioui, they have also lost playmaker playmaker Romain Habran and Anthony Goncalves, their two top assist makers, that is a lot of goal threat from a team who do not pose much ! The solid defence has been split up with two players leaving and three of those remaining are getting pretty long in the tooth now ( in their 33rd-38th years) and this could be a tough season for the visitors.
Nimes took a lot of confidence from a 1-0 pre season loss to Marseille, where they attracted a big crowd and dominated much of the play and were denined by the woodwork and some late ditch callenges/saves, they have low price admission deals to get as many people into the stadium tonight as possible and are targeting a fast start this time round and to continue where they left off last season. They have been away at a training centre all week to prepare for today and "bond" and I favour them to start with a win."
Like many games last weekend that was a largely uninspiring affair, but Nimes were the better side and not helped by a poor playing surface , or referee Florent Batta ,who gave up 105 yellow and five reds in 21 Ligue 2 games last season and started as he means to go on in his one man crusade to ruin second tier football, by producing 10 yellow and two red here, the Laval dismissal came late in injury time, Nimes played 40 minutes a man short and probably saw a draw as respectable at that stage. I will be doing my best to avoid any games where Batta is in charge in future. I have spoken many times previously about Nimes being very offensive minded, especially when facing an opponent with a similar mindset and I expect, Le Havre, who are amongst the title favourites and who were one of those teams (see above) to open with a win last week, to be all out guns blazing for three points today. The two teams played out a pair of wide open encounters last season, which both produced four goals and something along the same lines is expected today.
HAC came up a goal short of promotion last season and that, allied to just two automatic promotion spots, should ensure they will always be looking for maximum points. Nimes are without suspended left back (but has now been converted to left sided central defender) Fethi Harek, the 11 games he has missed in the last 12 months have averaged 2.91 goals. His absence will have got the attention of Le Havre new signing Algerian winger Zinedine Ferhat, who could go down the same route as HAC's last "name" Algerian signing Rihad Mahrez, Ferhat has every trick in the book and then some and there will be plenty of entertainment in watching him this season.
over 2.25 goals 2.11 asian line/Sportmarket
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