Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Balotelli set to return for Nice against Lyon

Publish on 29/08/2018 at 15:00


Mario Balotelli has yet to feature for OGC Nice this term, but having been persuaded to stay by new coach Patrick Vieira, the Italy forward is likely to start as Les Aiglons chase a first win of the season at Olympique Lyonnais.

 Olympique Lyonnais - OGC Nice 


Balotelli has plundered 43 goals in 66 games in all competitions for Nice since swapping Liverpool for the Allianz Riviera in the summer of 2016 and earned a recall to the Italy squad in May after a four-year hiatus, but he has yet to make a matchday squad for his club in 2018-19 after suspension, as well as pursuing a move to Olympique de Marseille.

Vieira influence

A conversation with Vieira changed Balotelli's mind, though, and his return - which may irk some sections of the support - could prove to be a shot in the arm for a side who have lost to Stade de Reims and Dijon FCO as well as drawing with SM Caen in the three Ligue 1 Conforama games Vieira has overseen since replacing Borussia Dortmund-bound Lucien Favre.

Watch:  Every single one of Balotelli's 18 Ligue 1 Conforama goals in 2017-18!

"I had the intention to leave and the club knew it," Balotelli told OGC Nice TV. "Nice aren't playing in Europe this season, Marseille are. I looked at what was best and, in the end, I stayed here. Vieira changed 80 percent of my decision."

Cameroonian striker Ignatius Ganago, the scorer of Nice's only goal so far this season, has a thigh complaint so Balotelli's return is particularly timely. Vieira, who said "I believe in this squad, I believe in my players," following the 4-0 reverse against Dijon, is unlikely to deviate much from the 4-3-3 formation he has hitherto used, though Balotelli's reinstatement could see Allan Saint-Maximin pushed back out to his preferred right flank.

Mariano Madrid-bound

Lyon begin the day in fourth, five points and 14 places better off than Nice who occupy the relegation play-off spot as things stand. As their visitors' star striker returns, their own, Mariano Diaz, has moved back to former club Real Madrid. The Spain-born forward had a buy-back clause in his contract and following his 18-goal maiden Ligue 1 Conforama campaign, the European champions have decided to exercise it.

Watch: Traoré scored the goal of Week 2 last time out!

Les Gones have been sharing the goal-burden so far, though - Bertrand Traoré has two to his name, Memphis Depay and Martin Terrier one apiece - but coach Bruno Génésio wants to see more from them even after bouncing back from their 1-0 loss to Stade de Reims with a 2-0 victory over RC Strasbourg Alsace.

Goals galore

"I'm satisfied with the players' reaction against Reims," he said in his post-match press conference. "We took the three points even though there were a few uncomfortable moments. We still have to do better but there was some good attacking intent which had been missing recently."

Brazilian left-back Fernando Marçal continues to struggle with a calf injury so Ferland Mendy should once again get the nod at the Groupama Stadium, while Memphis is likely to lead the line. Regardless for who starts up front for either side, goals seem likely, with 16 scored in these sides' last three meetings alone.


Possible teams:

Lyon: Lopes; Dubois, Marcelo, Morel, Mendy; Ndombele, Tousart, Fekir; Traoré, Memphis, Terrier

Nice: Cardinale; Burner, Hérelle, Dante, Boscagli; Danilo, Tameze, Cyprien; Saint-Maximin, Balotelli, Lees-Melou