Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Ligue 1 clash between Lorient and Reims, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Les Merlus picked up three precious points in the fight against demotion with a 2-1 beating of Metz last time out, while a late fightback from Will Still‘s crop was in vain in a 3-2 loss to Toulouse.
Earning maximum points for just the third time in the current top-flight campaign, Lorient travelled to Metz’s Stade Saint-Symphorien with the aim of snapping a dismal 11-game winless run stretching back to October, as well as picking up their inaugural away success of the new term.
A sharp turn and finish from Mohamed Bamba propelled Regis Le Bris‘s men into the ascendancy before Metz returnee Didier Lamkel Ze restored parity for the hosts just three minutes later, but the Grenats loanee’s endeavours would prove fruitless, as Panos Katseris came up with the crucial contribution for the visitors.
Smashing home from a tight angle after Alexandre Oukidja could only parry an Imran Louza strike into his path, January arrival Katseris ensured that Lorient would not spend another week rooted to the foot of the Ligue 1 standings, as they crept up to 17th place on account of their morale-boosting triumph.
One point better off than new cellar dwellers Clermont and with only goal difference separating them from Metz in the relegation playoff place, next on Lorient’s agenda is putting a halt to their five-game winless run at the Stade du Moustoir, where their recent affairs have been entertaining to say the least.
Despite notching eight goals in their last four home contests, Les Merlus’s ruthlessness has been nullified by their rearguard indiscipline – conceding 12 in at the other end in that time – although upcoming foes Reims hardly put in an exemplary defensive display of their own last time out.
Fans could have been forgiven for vacating their seats at the Stade Auguste-Delaune during the half-time interval when Reims squared off with Toulouse, who ran riot in the opening 45 minutes and surged into a three-goal lead through Christian Mawissa, Shavy Babicka and Thijs Dallinga.
Reims did not emerge for the second half resigned to their fate, though, as Teddy Teuma reduced the arrears by 33% with a fine finish in the 49th minute, although the hosts’ second – scored by Sergio Akieme – did not arrive until the clock had ticked over 90 minutes, and Toulouse survived a nail-biting injury time period to leave as the victors.
Following three straight successes in Ligue 1 and Coupe de France action from December 20 to January 13, Reims have now gone three games without victory in all tournaments for the first time this season, but the much-coveted Still still has his side in the continental mix.
Indeed, Les Rouges et Blancs are currently the best of the rest in seventh place – just two points worse off than Lens and five adrift of the Champions League positions – and their only Ligue 1 fixture on the road in 2024 so far ended in a statement 3-1 win over Principality powerhouses Monaco.
That triumph at the Stade Louis II broke Reims’ dismal three-game losing run in Ligue 1 away contests, and the visitors have a two-match winning streak and five-game unbeaten sequence to prolong against Lorient, who have not trumped their upcoming opponents since February 2021.
Lorient Ligue 1 form:
Lorient form (all competitions):
Reims Ligue 1 form:
Reims form (all competitions):
Six of the seven Lorient players called up to represent their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations have now finished their international commitments, but DR Congo defender Gedeon Kalulu will battle for the consolation prize of third place against South Africa on Saturday and should not be back in time for Sunday’s encounter.
Fellow full-back Benjamin Mendy remains in the infirmary with a hamstring issue and is being kept company by Quentin Boisgard (foot) and Aiyegun Tosin (thigh), although none of them should spend too much longer in the medical bay.
With a pair of goals to show from his opening two appearances for Les Merlus since arriving from Austrian outfit Wolfsberger AC, Ivorian striker Bamba should spearhead an unaltered XI, keeping Bamba Dieng at bay once more.
Likewise, Reims are still waiting on one player to conclude their AFCON campaign, as striker Oumar Diakite and his Ivory Coast side will clash with Nigeria in this weekend’s showpiece match, but Still will be able to call upon two international returnees.
Japanese attackers Junya Ito and Keito Nakamura are both due to back from the Asian Cup after the Samurai Blue’s disheartening quarter-final exit to Iran last weekend, and the former is almost certainly in line for a swift recall to the XI.
Only Maxime Busi and Valentin Atangana are in the care of the doctors with thigh injuries, and on account of his goal off the bench in the loss to Toulouse, left-back Akieme ought to feel confident of displacing Thibault De Smet, who only lasted until half time last weekend.
Lorient possible starting lineup:
Mvogo; Toure, Adjei, Talbi; Katseris, Louza, Abergel, Le Bris; Kari, Ponceau; Bamba
Reims possible starting lineup:
Diouf; Agbadou, Okumu, Abdelhamid, Akieme; Teuma, Stambouli, Munetsi; Ito, Daramy, Nakamura
We say: Lorient 1-2 Reims
The momentum may be with a Lorient side who consistently make the net ripple at home, but it is at the other end of the Stade du Moustoir turf where Les Merlus’ problems lie, and 20 home goals shipped so far this term is a division high.
With Reims also receiving two timely boosts in the form of Ito and Nakamura’s returns, we expect Still’s side to make it three wins on the trot against their hosts, who will be sent crashing back down to earth and potentially bottom spot with an 11th loss of the season.
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