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PREVIEW: Racing face Stade in pick of Festive French Top 14 fixtures

The French Top 14 delivers a festive treat this weekend with several high-profile fixtures on the cards including Stade’s trip to Racing. Darry Worthington previews.

Paolo Odogwu of Stade Francias
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

The French Top 14 delivers a festive treat this weekend with several high-profile fixtures on the cards including Stade’s trip to Racing. Darry Worthington previews.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Thursday 22 December

Toulon 24/100 | Draw 25/1 | Lyon 33/10 (22:00)

We kick things off at the Stade Mayol where Toulon will play host to Lyon. The two sides currently sit mid-table on the ladder with Lyon in sixth place and Toulon in ninth. Only three points separate the duo, however, so this game could be pretty significant in who claims a barrage place later next year.

Toulon had the better time of it during the European break as they beat Zebre 21-24 and Bath 29-7. Lyon, on the other hand, struggled for results as they suffered a heartbreaking 42-36 defeat at the hands of the Bulls and a 20-28 home loss to English side Saracens.

I reckon this one will be extremely hard-fought but my money is on the hosts coming out on top when all is said and done.

Friday 23 December

Pau 29/100 | Draw 24/1 | Bayonne 11/4 (19:45)

High-flying Bayonne will be looking to move into the top six by bagging a win over a Pau side that looks more and more likely to be involved in a relegation scrap this term. The hosts currently lie in 12th place on the ladder and have just five wins from the 12 games they have played.

The hosts did enjoy some success in the Challenge Cup as they beat Welsh strugglers, the Dragons, 21-27 this past weekend. It wasn’t all roses and sunshine in Europe for Pau, however, as they also went down 16-21 to a Free State Cheetahs side who hadn’t played competitively for months.

Bayonne had a far worse start to their Challenge Cup campaign as they were hammered 39-7 by the Scarlets in their opener and then 7-45 by Benetton Treviso this past weekend.

I don’t reckon there will be much in this one so my money is on the hosts scraping a win by less than five points.

La Rochelle 17/100 | Draw 33/1 | Bordeaux 42/10 (19:45)

We’ve got a solid clash in store next up with fourth-place La Rochelle taking on eighth-placed La Rochelle, While there is a four-position gulf between the sides on the Top 14 ladder, it’s a lot tighter than it looks with only five points separating the two.

The hosts for this weekend enjoyed a brilliant start to their Heineken Cup title defence as they registered wins over Ulster (29-36) and Northampton (46-12). Bordeaux didn’t fare as well as their opponents for this weekend as they went down 16-19 to the Sharks, and 22-17 to Gallagher Premiership outfit, Gloucester.

The hosts are in great form and I can’t see them losing this one on their own patch.

Montpellier 1/14 | Draw 33/1 | Perpignan 15/2 (19:45)

We head to the GGL Stadium for our next instalment which will see fifth-placed Montpellier take on 13th-placed Perpignan in a true David versus Goliath affair.

Montpellier have had an up-and-down domestic campaign this far with six victories from their 12 games. They also had a mixed bag of results in the first two rounds of the Heineken Cup beating London Irish 27-32 before going down 10-21 to the Ospreys.

Perpignan also struggled in Europe going down to both Glasgow and Bristol in the Challenge Cup.

I fully expect Montpellier to bounce back after that disappointing loss to the Ospreys with a big win over Perpignan. Get on the minus when it becomes available. 

Toulouse 1/11 | Draw 40/1 | Castres 13/2 (22:00)

Our penultimate game of the weekend sees log-leaders Toulouse take on last season’s runners-up Castres.

The hosts carried their fine domestic form over to their European campaign as they hammered Sale 45-19 after beating Munster 15-18 in Ireland.

Castres, who have struggled domestically this term and currently lie 11th on the Top 14 ladder, battled in Europe over the past fortnight as they went down to Edinburgh and Exeter.

Toulouse should take this one at a canter. They are in great form while Castres haven’t managed to replicate last season’s form this term.

Saturday 24 December

Racing 27/100 |Draw 25/1 | Stade 29/10 (16:00)

We close things out with a Paris derby as Racing and Stade square off at the La Defense Arena.

Both sides are enjoying decent domestic campaigns with Racing sitting second on the ladder with Stade three points behind them in third.

Stade produced a mixed bag in the Challenge Cup beating Italian outfit Bennetton before going down to the Golden Lions in Johannesburg. Things were worse for Racing in the Heineken Cup as they lost to Leinster and Harlequins.

This should be a tasty old affair and one definitely worthy of the headline clash of the round. I reckon the hosts will scrape it by the narrowest of margins. 

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