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Preview: Reims vs. Clermont - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Reims vs. Clermont - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Ligue 1 clash between Reims and Clermont, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Ligue 1 newcomers Clermont travel to the Stade Auguste-Delaune II to take on Reims in what is looking like it could turn out to be a relegation six-pointer.

Neither side is in good form, which has seen the hosts drop to 15th in the table and the visitors fall into the relegation playoff spot.

Match preview

Reims are without a win since September, picking up three draws and three losses in the six games since then.

As their most recent match entered stoppage time, it looked as though they were finally about to end that winless run, leading Strasbourg 1-0 thanks to a Hugo Ekitike goal in the 22nd minute.

Having earlier survived giving away a penalty, Reims hearts were broken in the 96th minute by Jean Ricner-Bellegarde, who equalised with a beautiful free kick.

After finishing eighth and fifth upon their return to the top division with David Guion, they could only manage 14th last season and are now enduring an even more difficult campaign under the tutelage of new manager Oscar Garcia.

They have managed just two wins from their 14 matches to this point and must have an eye over their shoulder at the relegation spots.

There will not be many better chances to break that winless streak than Sunday's game, however.

Clermont got off to a perfect start in their first-ever season in the French top flight, with consecutive 2-0 wins against Bordeaux and fellow newly-promoted side Troyes.

The wheels well and truly fell off, though, with just one win since then - a narrow 1-0 victory over Lille in October - and they come into this game on a run of four successive defeats.

Les Lanciers took an unlikely lead against second-placed Nice last weekend and held it for an hour, but a late brace from Amine Gouiri produced that familiar taste of defeat once again and saw them drop to 18th and the relegation playoff spot.

Clermont boasted the best defensive record in Ligue 2 last year, but they have not been able to keep that up in the top tier, with 28 goals conceded - at a rate of two per game - and 19 of those on the road, which does not bode well for Sunday's game.

Reims Ligue 1 form:
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • D

Clermont Ligue 1 form:
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L

Team News

Reims have a fairly lengthy injury list, with Fode Doucoure (muscle), Thomas Foket (calf), Marshall Munetsi (muscle), Fraser Hornby (muscle) and Arber Zeneli (ACL) all still sidelined.

That leaves Garcia with very few options in terms of tinkering with his side and there is a strong possibility of the starting XI remaining the same.

Last match saw Ekitike, Ilan Kebbal and El Bilal Toure line up as the attacking trio in a 4-3-3, but 19-year-old Nathanael Mbuku is also an option.

As for Clermont, a serious groin injury will see Cedric Hountondji out until the new year, with Jean-Claude Billong most likely to deputise in central defence.

Hountondji is the only confirmed absence, though attacker Saif-Eddine Khaoui is also a doubt.

Reims possible starting lineup:
Rajkovic; Gravillon, Faes, Abdelhamid, Konan; Cafaro, Matusiwa, Cassama; Kebbal, Ekitike, Toure

Clermont possible starting lineup:
Desmas; Zedadka, Ogier, Billong, N'Simba; Gastien, Samed; Dossou, Berthomier, Rashani; Bayo

We say: Reims 2-1 Clermont

With both teams desperate for a long-awaited win, this game could easily go either way. Both sides' winless streaks going on courtesy of a draw is certainly not out of the question, but we are backing the hosts to use their experience to gain a crucial victory.

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