OGC Nice players confer during a match
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Match Preview: OGC Nice-Montpellier HSC

Match Preview: OGC Nice-Montpellier HSC

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Publish on 03/08 at 16:00 - E. DEVIN

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Two teams desperate for a turnabout in form will kick off Matchday 25 at the Allianz Riveira this evening.

One of Ligue 1's most experienced managers will take on one the division's freshest faces Friday evening as Montpellier HSC, led by veteran Michel der Zakarian, travel to take on Francesco Farioli and OGC Nice at the Allianz Riviera. Both sides are going to be eager for points as they may feel their objective slipping from their grasp with just nine matchdays remaining.

Les Aiglons had been one of the season's surprise packages for much of the campaign, riding the canny defensive partnership of Dante and Jean-Clair Todibo to sit second as recently as Matchday 21. The team's solidity has been further buoyed by the outstanding play of Marçin Bulka in goal, with Youssouf Ndayishimiye as skillful as any player in the league playing in defensive midfield.

Now, however, it appears the team's lack of options in attack is coming home to roost. Farioli's side weathered the absences of Jérémie Boga and Terem Moffi through the Africa Cup of Nations rather well, with the same being true of the absence through injury of Sofiane Diop, but in the team's last five league matches, they've found the net just three times. Granted, some of these matches have come against high-calibre opposition in the form of AS Monaco and Stade Brestois, but their return in front of goal is worrying for a team with European ambitions.

Those ambitions are now well and truly under threat thanks to their profligacy -- only the bottom two sides, Metz and Clermont have worse attacks this season, and the team have slipped to fifth. Farioli has tried to mix up what is no doubt a talented group of attackers, dropping Mohamed-Ali Cho and Gaëtan Laborde, but to no avail.

They may, however, find some respite in facing a Montpellier side who are in similarly poor form, despite their -attacking- prowess. In Téji Savanier, Akor Adams, Musa Al-Taamari and Arnaud Nordin, the visitors have an attacking quartet that is the envy of most Ligue sides, but a rash of injuries in defence has proved their undoing this season.

Théo Saint-Luce is fit again, but the team have missed he, Christopher Jullien, Becir Omeragic, and Kiki Kouyaté at various points this season. January arrival Modibo Sagnan is suspended here, compounding his side's worries, but Omeragic is expected to return.

With the bottom of the table tightly-packed, Montpellier could rise as high as 12th with a win, putting the pressure on their relegation rivals. The same is true for Nice -- a win would see them climb back into the top three. With so much on the line, it's likely to be a tense atmosphere at the Allianz Riviera, making for a thrilling offering to kick off the weekend!

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