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Angers and Nice meet on the Mediterranean

Publish on 27/11/2019 at 13h00

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Angers SCO and OGC Nice have been surprise packages of the Ligue 1 Conforama season in different ways up till now and come into Saturday's Week 15 contest with their expected roles reversed.

OGC Nice - Angers SCO

Angers have finished in the top half of the table just once since returning to the top flight in 2015, while INEOS' takeover of Nice last summer was expected to herald an exciting and successful new dawn on the Côte d'Azur.

It is Angers, however, who make the trip to the Allianz Riviera in a position to challenge for a UEFA Champions League place while their hosts languish at the wrong end of the table. Stéphane Moulin's side had been expected to fall away after making a good start to the season, but have defied the odds to come into the weekend's action in third place.

Last weekend's 1-0 home win over Nîmes Olympique — courtesy of Thomas Mangani's second-half goal — even took them into second for 24 hours before Olympique de Marseille edged a point ahead of them with their win at Toulouse on Sunday evening.

It is the club's best start to a season since 1960/61, and as the games are ticked off and points accumulated, Moulin acknowledged the side's ambition of merely avoiding the drop this season could be revised.

"We don't have the potential to look four or five games or two months ahead. It's not possible.We have to keep focussed on what is coming up, and what's coming up now is Nice," said the Angers boss, who has been in charge at the Stade Raymond Kopa since 2011.

Altered ambitions

"I've changed a little bit what I say to the players because I think that's how we'll improve. It's new for us, but we have to go for it. We're not going to think that suddenly we'll qualify for Europe, but right now we're in front and we want to stay there. We have to learn to play games to win them, and not just to stay up. We have to learn to win with the billing of favourites."

Angers head south on the back of a four-game unbeaten run — their longest of the season — and have not lost in five meetings with Nice, including last season's goalless draw there which ended with midfielder Baptiste Santamaria in goal for the visitors after Ludovic Butelle had been sent off.

Nice boss Patrick Vieira might be tempted to take a point from the match given his team have won just once — and lost six, including last weekend against Olympique Lyonnais — of their last nine competitive outings. But with his side in 15th place, just three points above the bottom three, the former Arsenal, Juventus and Inter Milan midfielder would dearly love more reward from the 90 minutes.

To compound his problems, defenders Christophe Hérelle and Andy Pelmard will be sidelined by injury for at least another month while full-back Patrick Burner is suspended. The good news is Alexis Claude-Maurice is fit enough to be considered for selection.

While Vieira ponders his team selection, his future at the club is being discussed in the media with David Beckham reportedly keen to take the ex-New York City FC coach back across the Atlantic Ocean to lead the new Inter Miami franchise.

"It's not up to me to answer that question," said Vieira when asked whether his current job was in jeopardy. "I do my work every day as best as I can. I don't feel in danger, but you know things can go very quickly in football. At the start of the season it was Lyon, now it's Inter Miami. Tomorrow, it'll be Botafogo!! I don't know what to say."

Probable teams

Nice: Benitez - Atal, Danté (c), Sarr, Nsoki - Boudaoui, Cyprien, Lees-Melou, Claude-Maurice - Ounas, Dolberg

Angers: Butelle - Bamba, Traoré (c), Thomas, Aït-Nouri - Bobichon, Santamaria, Mangani - Pereira Lage, Alioui, Ninga