Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Form clubs face off in Angers

Publish on 12/04/2018 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


Europe-chasing Nice go to Angers for a testing Ligue 1 Conforama match on Friday evening. Nice go into the game just a point off fifth place.

Angers SCO - OGC Nice

Angers are 14th after a run of form that has seen them take 11 points from six games, one that has lifted Stéphane Moulin's side from 19th in the table to the verge of safety. Nice coach Lucien Favre is wary of the threat Angers pose: "They're a team that had problems at a certain point in time," noted the Swiss. "But, like us, they managed to turn it around. They could even have taken something off Paris recently. Angers are solid and well organised in their 4-3-3. They're dangerous from set pieces, they have pace and they counter well."

Nice have taken 10 points from their last five outings, the one defeat in that run being a 2-1 home reverse in a high-quality game at home to PSG. Last time out, Nice were held 1-1 at Allianz Riviera by fellow Europa League chasers Rennes.

Favre on thrilling race for fifth, Balotelli doubtful

Speaking about the race for fifth, Favre commented: "Rennes are very good going forward but we could have won that game. Montpellier are very well organised in a 5-4-1. It's not easy to create chances against them and you end up exhausting yourselves against their defensive block. Nantes are still up there and they deserved more at Monaco. As for Saint-Etienne, they really strengthened during the last transfer window."

Italian striker Mario Balotelli is a doubt after being ill earlier in the week, while midfielder Wylan Cyprien is also uncertain after suffering an injury scare, although Favre confirmed it wasn't to the knee that the former Lens star damaged so badly last campaign. On 14-goal top scorer Balotelli, Favre said: "He has highs and lows. After Rennes I said we lacked movement at the top end of the field but I don't want to speak about one player in particular."

Toko Ekambi threat

Favre is preparing his side to take on Angers' ace forward Karl Toko Ekambi, the scorer of 17 goals this season. Favre said: "He's not the only one with quality. When you analyse goals you have to see how they came about, who crosses the ball, who plays the last but one pass, who makes the extra man, who dribbles. There are lots of details to analyse."

Quizzed as to how Angers have managed their dramatic improvement in form since January, coach Stéphane Moulin explained: "Our key players have got back to their best. We're playing much more coherently and we're enjoying better results. Toko and Tait have really come to the fore. Santamaria is back and Pavlovic has done a really good job filling in for Romain Thomas.

Moulin: 'We have to finish it off'

"We lost all our firepower, apart from Toko, last summer. Now we've got some balance back and players have come through in key positions. The fact that the coaching staff had their contracts extended in February allowed us to carry on the work we'd started. Now we have to finish it off and ensure we stay up."

Probable teams

Angers SCO: Butelle; Manceau, I. Traoré (c), Thomas, Ab. Bamba; Oniangué, Santamaria, Mangani; Reine-Adelaïde, Toko Ekambi, Tait

OGC Nice: Benitez; Souquet, Dante (c), Marlon, Le Marchand; Lees-Melou, Tameze, Seri; Saint-Maximin, Plea, Srarfi