Ambitious OGC Nice are still looking for their first win of the new Ligue 1 Uber Eats season as they head north to face LOSC Lille at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Wednesday.
LOSC Lille – OGC Nice Wednesday at 21:00 CET (1900 GMT)
Nice began the campaign with high hopes of once again challenging towards the top of the table, but instead they approach the end of August languishing in the relegation zone. It is still very early days, but it has not been the start that anyone on the Côte d’Azur was anticipating.
Les Aiglons head to France’s far north on the rebound following a painful 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Olympique de Marseille in the Mediterranean derby at the weekend, when Lucien Favre’s side conceded all three goals in the first half. They have scored just two goals in four league outings, and followed back-to-back 1-1 draws against Toulouse FC and RC Strasbourg Alsace with defeats away at Clermont Foot 63 (1-0) and now at home to an OM side who are supposed to be one of their rivals for European qualification.
Nice have at least qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Europa Conference League, albeit even that was achieved in less than convincing fashion, as they needed extra time at home in the second leg to overcome Maccabi Tel-Aviv, having lost 1-0 in the first leg in Israel. Favre admits that constant talk of transfers, and the late arrival of many new signings, may not have helped.
“Of course there are some players who are likely to leave, and others who are going to come. That is maybe disruptive but these are just excuses. There is no point talking about that,” Favre said following the Marseille loss at the Allianz Riviera on Sunday.
Pépé needs time
Nice had five summer signings in their starting line-up in that game, including Italian centre-back Mattia Viti, who made his debut following his €15 million move from Serie A side Empoli. There was also a debut for Nicolas Pépé in the wake of his arrival on loan from Arsenal. The 27-year-old Ivory Coast struggled to make an impact against Marseille but will hope to feature against Lille, the club for whom he scored 22 Ligue 1 goals in the 2018-19 season prior to his departure to the other side of the Channel.
“He will gradually get back into the swing of things,” Favre said of Pépé. “He had not played in England for a long time. He went through pre-season training with Arsenal but didn’t play a match, so he is lacking a bit of rhythm and intensity in terms of his pressing and winning the ball back. These are things that all the players have to do, without exception. If one or two players don’t do the job, then the whole team has a problem.”
This game comes just 24 hours before the transfer window closes and more movement is expected at Nice, who on Monday saw Austrian centre-back Flavius Daniliuc leave the club for Serie A side Salernitana. Striker Amine Gouiri has also been linked with a move away from Nice.
Bayo back for Lille?
Lille have been thwarted in their attempts to sign Ludovic Blas from FC Nantes but their performance in winning 3-1 away at AC Ajaccio on Friday suggested that coach Paulo Fonseca has plenty of attacking quality at his disposal.
Yusuf Yazici, back from a loan spell at CSKA Moscow, scored an outstanding opening goal before Jonathan Bamba and Tiago Djaló also found the target. Jonathan David later missed a penalty in Corsica for Lille, who could welcome back Mohamed Bayo here. The Guinea striker was banished to the reserves for a week after enjoying a night out in the centre of Lille the night before their recent 7-1 home hammering by Paris Saint-Germain.
“Good teams never lose twice,” pointed out Lille captain José Fonte after they got back on track in Ajaccio following that horror show against the Parisians.
Nice are still without midfielder Mario Lemina as he serves the second game of a three-match ban following his red card against Clermont recently, but centre-back Jean-Clair Todibo can return after suspension here.
LOSC: Jardim, Diakite, Fonte, DJalo, Ismaily; André, Gomes; Zhegrova, Yazici, Bamba; David
OGC Nice: Schmeichel; Ilie, Viti, Dante, Lotomba; Rosario, Bard; Claude-Maurice, Delort, Pépé; Beka Beka