Pépé powering LOSC progress
By D. Crossan
Nicolas Pépé, a hat-trick hero at Amiens, will be aiming to continue his exceptional form when high-flying LOSC host Nantes on Saturday afternoon in Ligue 1 Conforama.
The Ivorian international's first triple salvo in the top flight, featuring two penalties, extended the 23-year-old's eye-catching start to the season, one that has seen him named on the shortlist for August's player of the month along with Kylian Mbappé of Paris Saint-Germain and Dijon's Julio Tavares.
Pépé has now been involved in seven of LOSC's last eight Ligue 1 Conforama goals, scoring four of them and contributing three assists. Pépé's performance against Amiens was all the more impressive given that coach Christophe Galtier revealed post-match that the quicksilver forward had been uncertain to play until the last: "Nicolas was much diminished," said the former Saint-Etienne boss. "He was a doubt until three hours before kick off but he was really good. He created a lot of danger and was really cool with his two penalties."
Pépé's focus on Lille despite Barcelona link
Linked to Barcelona by the Spanish press, Pépé said this week: "I'm focused on Lille and I'm having a great time playing in a team that's performing well and that's all that matters to me. I'll let other people speak. I've got a great coach who has confidence in me and plays a large part in me expressing myself. I'm doing well on the pitch because I've got my family around me. When I go home, my mother, father, sister and brother all make things easy for me. I only have to think about football."
Pépé is already well on course to better the 13 league goals that helped keep LOSC up last term and he has become so prolific it is hard to believe that when he joined Poitiers as a 14-year-old it was as a goalkeeper. Looking ahead to the Nantes match, Galtier commented: "If Nicolas Pépé is doing so well then it is because he's in a team where the danger can come from anywhere and that means that our opponents cannot afford just to focus on him."
Les Canaris unbeaten in three games
While LOSC headed into Week 6 in third place in the table, Nantes ranked 17th, five points worse off on five points. The five points Nantes have obtained have all come in their last three games under Miguel Cardoso, although the 0-0 at home to Reims in Week 5 went down as a disappointing result as the Portuguese boss' possession game is taking time to bed in.
Slovenian international Rene Krhin said: "Against Reims it was difficult for us. We controlled the match but it was hard to find space against a team that sat very deep. The style of play coach Cardoso wants demands precision. Once we have mastered it then life is likely to become difficult for our opponents. We are starting to get on each other's wavelength and starting to feel more at ease. We still have more work to do. We need to believe in the tactics in order for them to work."
LOSC: Maignan; Celik, J. Fonte, Soumaoro, Ballo-Touré; Thiago Mendes, Xeka; Pépé, Ikoné, Bamba; R. Fonte
Nantes: Tatarusanu; Kwateng, Miazga, Diego Carlos, Lima; Krhin, Moutoussamy; Evangelista, Rongier, Waris; Sala