Nice wary of Montpellier's form against top clubs
By D. Crossan
After two weeks stewing over their home mauling at the hands of Marseille, Nice are targeting a return to winning ways when they travel to Montpellier, who have specialised in playing well against the top clubs this season.
Montpellier Hérault SC - OGC Nice
Montpellier have already drawn at home to Paris Saint-Germain, the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders, and away to Monaco, the Ligue 1 Conforama champions. Nice, third-placed finishers last season, know they'll be in for a tough game at the Stade de la Mosson.
Midfielder Nampalys Mendy said: "It's time to get going again and get back to winning ways, because we really need to get back to winning again. Getting a result against Montpellier would be the best way to prepare for facing Lazio. We need to be focused and we need to win."
Mendy: "Different context"
Nice entered Week 9 with 10 points from eight games, a point better off than Michel Der Zakarian's disciplined Montpellier. Mendy, on loan from Leicester City of the English Premier League, continued: "Montpellier have posed problems to everybody, especially at home. Against Paris and Monaco everyone gave it their all and everyone was super-motivated. It will be a different context when they play us, although teams really want to beat us, and so it will be a difficult match."
Because of their European campaign, Nice have played six matches more than Sunday's opponents and Lucien Favre's team selection will be interesting to observe given Les Aiglons will want to maintain their 100% Europa League record four days later at home to Lazio.
Montpellier, in their 5-4-1 formation, have proved exceptionally difficult to break down and aggressive in the 50-50s, battling for every ball. Former Nantes coach Der Zakarian said: "Perceptions of our style are related to communications, something I don't do well. I don't care what labels are attached to us. The very basis of football is to win games, if possible by playing entertaining football. In order to win games you need to be able to win the ball back. All the top teams play with great intensity and aggressiveness, but that often goes unremarked."
Souleymane Camara, Montpellier's record scorer in the top division, snatched a point for MHSC at Monaco prior to the international window and the late equaliser was a source of great satisfaction to the boss: "We were mentally strong and we had the balls to come back. We didn't deserve to leave without a point."
The Mosson pitch will be a source of concern to Nice as it helped stop PSG playing technical football. Der Zakarian conceded: "After Paris everyone said - and I was the first to say it - that the pitch helped us. But we didn't allow them very much space to attack and it was the same when we played Monaco."
Montpellier: Lecomte; Aguilar, Mukiele, Hilton (cap), Congré, Roussillon; Skhiri, Lasne; Mbenza, Sio, Ninga
Nice: Cardinale; Souquet, Dante (cap), Le Marchand, Jallet; Saint-Maximin, Koziello, Seri, Lees-Melou; Plea, Balotelli