Reims: the case for the defence
Having conceded just four goals so far this term, Reims boast the best defensive record across the top five leagues in Europe, going into Sunday's game at Nice.
The goalless draw against Nîmes last weekend represented an 8th clean sheet of the season. The visitors were afforded just one shot on target from open play, as the champagne side's defence reigned supreme once again. Reims coach David Guion said: "I thought the team was well balanced and quick to get back into the right defensive shape. Nimes had very little to feed on aside from set pieces!"
Forwards doing their bit
Predrag Rajkovic has hit the headlines with his performances in Reims' goal, but in Guion's set up, the defensive efforts start at the other end of the pitch. Yunis Abdelhamid commented: "When you see your forwards doing their bit. Boulaye Dia, Mathieu Cafaro, Moussa Konate and Rémi Oudin always give everything and that boosts us, it gives us extra motivation. We all fight for our team-mates, that is this team's strength so we'll do everything to keep that up, and as long as we do, we know we can get results!"
Since their return to Ligue 1 last season, Reims have kept 22 clean sheets, a total only PSG can better over the same period. Björn Engels may have left for England in the summer, but 21-year-old Axel Disasi has more than stepped up to the plate, carrying through a game-plan that has become Guion's trademark.
Abdelhamid added: "We've got a real compact block. We're very difficult to move out of position. Those are things we've been working on for three years now, since I arrived here with the club in Ligue 2. The tactics are bearing their fruits now."
You'd have to go back six years to locate the last Ligue 1 side to concede so few goals after 11 weeks of play. Rene Girard's Lille went on to finish the season third. The bar has been set high for Reims, who many are tipping for European qualification. The players though, remain focused on maintaining their form.
Abdelhamid said: "We're not really looking at the table. We just want to win games, to pick up points and to enjoy the season. Let's hope we carry on this way, we're still some way off the targets we've set."