Aiglons out to hit back

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Being held to a draw by ten-man Lyon is still on the mind of Nice as they prepare to entertain relegation-threatened Stade de Reims on Friday evening with hopes of hitting back in the race for a second-placed finish.

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Les Aiglons allowed a one-goal lead at Parc OL to slip through their hands, despite their rivals for a Champions League finish playing more than an hour a man light following Maxwell Cornet's red card.

Nice head into Week 35 in fourth place in the table two points behind OL and four points adrift of Monaco in second. Coach Claude Puel said: "We've analysed what we did well against OL and what we did less well. After the two interruptions we didn't come up with the right response. It's part of our apprenticeship. It was still a good result in a match in which there was a lot of tension, an electric atmosphere. We didn't play badly, but we didn't play with the right attitude either. We weren't aggressive enough and there were times when we should have buried them."

Ben Arfa on fire

Puel led Nice to fourth in his first season in charge back in 2012-2013 and his current team has excited observers even more with Hatem Ben Arfa enjoying the season of his life. The French international, scorer of 16 goals, has been linked with a summer move to Paris Saint-Germain and has been ably supported on the goal-scoring front by Valère Germain, whose goal at Lyon took him to 11 for the campaign.

Reims head to the Côte d'Azur scrapping for their Ligue 1 future, only two points above 18th-placed Gazélec Ajaccio. Puel knows it will not be an easy game for his side, even though Nice have won four of their last six games: "It will be an even match. We want to be in the fight for the top spots right until the end of the season, while Reims are playing to stay up. Both teams will give it 100% in terms of concentration. They are at home playing on the counter, notably with Nicolas De Préville, and they have a quality squad. They could have been higher in the standings this season and we need the stadium in unison behind us."

Rémi Walter returned from injury as a substitute against OL and the France Under-21s midfielder said: "Reims are battling to stay in the division and we know it is never easy to play such opponents. In our league anything can happen and it will be a difficult game. We need to negotiate it well if we want to carry on as we should."

Guégan: 'We need to show something else'

Puel was right to pick out De Préville, who made his 100th Ligue 1 appearance in Reims' disappointing 2-1 defeat at relegated Troyes last weekend. As well as being club top scorer with six strikes, the former Istres player has provided nine assists, placing him level with Ryad Boudebouz of Montpellier and behind only Paris Saint-Germain duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Angel Di Maria.

After the Troyes loss, coach Olivier Guégan didn't mince his words: "The match we played wasn't worthy of a team that wants to stay up, especially in the first half. We waited until we'd had our bottom smacked before we started to play. We need to show something else if we want to stay in Ligue 1. It was an inexplicable display and we need to analyse why it happened. The only source of satisfaction is that our rivals didn't move forward and we need to hang on to that."


Probable teams

OGC Nice: Cardinale; R. Pereira, Baysse, Le Marchand, Pied; Koziello, N. Mendy (c), Seri; Ben Arfa; Plea, Germain

Stade de Reims: J. Carrasso; Conté, Mandi (c), Weber, Signorino; Devaux, Oniangué, Ndom; H. Traoré, Siebatcheu, De Préville



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