Second in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, Nice have the chance to close the gap on leaders Paris Saint-Germain when they host in-form Nantes on Friday evening.
NICE – NANTES (kick-off at 20:00 GMT on Friday)
Nice kick off Round 21 11 points back from PSG and ahead of third-placed Marseille only on goal difference. Playing first in the round gives Christophe Galtier’s side the chance to put the pressure on the clubs around them in the table but the task won’t be straightforward against a Nantes side that have collected 10 points from their last four league games to climb to ninth in the standings.
Ten-man Nice were 3-0 winners at Brest last weekend, making light of Morgan Schneiderlin’s red card, one that means the French international midfielder is suspended. Khephren Thuram could come into the midfield alongside Dutch international Pablo Rosario. It is an area where Les Aiglons are light on numbers with Schneiderlin banned and Mario Lemina at AFCON with Gabon.
Galtier commented: I saw really good things at Brest in terms of our efforts and the way the players played for each other. I especially liked the role of (Hicham) Boudaoui and the hard work put in by the attacking players. We defended really well but we’ll need to do better against Nantes on Friday as they’re a team that have just taken 11 points from six matches.”
Amavi, Bard and Stengs back?
The Nice boss also spoke about new signing Jordan Amavi, Melvin Bard and Calvin Stengs – players who all tested positive for coronavirus last week. Galtier said: “There are back in individualised training. I don’t know if they’ll be able to play on Friday. I’m not focused on covid and everybody must be ready to play.”
Chasing a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 win, a major return to form after only one success in their previous five outings, Les Aiglons are flying, though Galtier is refusing to get carried away. He said: “I’m counting on my experienced players to calm everybody down, especially our young players who bring insouciance to the party but who lack experience.”
Nantes centre-half Nicolas Pallois is a major doubt with a calf injury that has prevented him from training and key attacker Ludovic Blas has been struggling with a groin problem. Wylan Cyprien (hamstring) is still out and Les Canaris have Moses Simon, Kalifa Coulibaly, Charles Traoré and Jean-Charles Castelletto all away on AFCON duty.
Coach Antoine Kombouaré said: “We’re playing against the club that stands second in the league. They’ve won at Rennes, beaten Lens and enjoyed a big win at Brest despite playing practically 75 minutes with 10 men. They’re going really well at the moment and have the second-best defence in the league to go with the sixth-best attack. They’re solid, full of quality, and they have talent and experience to go with talented youngsters such as Amine Gouiri and Kasper Dolberg. They have a big squad that is full of quality. They’re a very good squad.”
Nice: Benitez; Lotomba, Todibo, Dante, Bard; Boudaoui, Thuram, Rosario, Kluivert; Gouiri, Delort
Nantes: Lafont; Fabio, Appiah, Girotto, Pallois (or Sylla), Merlin; Moutoussamy, Chirivella, Pereira de Sa ; Blas, Kolo Muani