So nice in Nice for title challengers
By I. Holyman
OGC Nice will seek to protect their unbeaten home record to continue their title challenge and bring AS Nancy Lorraine back down to Earth when the pair meet on the Mediterranean coast on Saturday.
OGC Nice - AS Nancy Lorraine
Nice's Week 32 win at LOSC Lille means they are certain to finish in the top four of the table and bring European football back to the Allianz Riviera for a second successive season.
Fourth place would mean qualification for the UEFA Europa League, but a top-three finish could bring UEFA Champions League football to the club for the first time.
Midfielder Jean Michael Seri is determined he and his team-mates will do all they can to make that happen.
"It's already historic to be at 70 points today. What we're doing is exceptional and we're going to try to continue," said the Ivory Coast man, whose team are in third place, one point behind Paris Saint-Germain and four adrift of leaders AS Monaco with six games to play. "I would even say that we only have that in mind. The attitude will be the same, the idea too: put everything in place to come out of the game with a win and continue moving forward."
WATCH: Nice destroy Monaco
The cornerstone of their surprise bid for a first top-flight title since 1958-59 has been their performances in front of their passionate home fans, who have seen 12 wins and four draws in 16 games this term making Nice and PSG the only teams yet to lose on home soil.
"When you play at home, your fans push you on. You have to take advantage of that fervour," said Seri, who plays in front of average attendances reaching nearly 22,000 at Nice's state-of-the-art home. "This season, our strength has been taking points at home, more so than last season when we dropped some along the way.
"For the moment, we're undefeated and I hope it'll stay that way to the end of the season as that would be a good thing. But nothing comes by chance. When you put in the effort and you sacrifice yourself for your team-mate, there's no reason for it not to pay off."
Nice boss Lucien Favre will have to rethink his attack, however, with Mario Balotelli, who scored both his team's goals at Lille, serving a one-match ban and Alassane Pléa, who got the only goal when Nice went to Nancy in Week 7, sidelined with a long-term knee injury.
WATCH: Nice win in Nancy
The Swiss coach will also no doubt put his team on high alert after watching Pablo Correa's men dismantle Stade Rennais 3-0 last weekend. Issiar Dia found the net twice as the Lorraine club ended a nine-game wait for a win and lifted themselves out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
"Even at 3-0, it was important not to concede a goal, because even a small thing could have made us doubt again. There's also a difference between 3-0, which is a complete performance, and 3-1, which leaves you with a feeling of having failed somewhere," said goalkeeper Guy Roland Ndy Assembé, whose club had kept just one clean sheet in their previous nine league outings.
"It can kick us on. We won't go into things with the same spirit as if we had lost to Rennes. We'll have less fear before taking them on, and rather a great desire to get a good result by being very solid."
Nice: Cardinale; Souquet, Le Marchand, Dante (cap), Dalbert; Koziello, Seri; R.Pereira, Belhanda, Eysseri; Le Bihan
Nancy: Ndy Assembe; Cuffaut, Chrétien (cap), Cabaco, Cétout; Guidileye, Pedretti, Aït Bennasser; Dia, Dalé, Puyo