Toulouse and Nice raise Week 9 curtain
By I. Holyman
Toulouse FC will seek to get out of their stumbling rut of recent form when they play host to a Mario Balotelli-less OGC Nice on Friday.
Toulouse FC - OGC Nice
After surviving by winning the relegation/promotion play-off last season, Toulouse had confounded the critics by making a lightning start to the season. Alain Casanova's men have seen their form tail off in recent weeks, however, and come into Week 9 winless in four matches.
They have only lost one game in that time — the self-inflicted 3-2 defeat to AS Saint-Étienne in their last home outing — while last weekend's 1-1 draw at Stade Rennais FC felt like a win.
WATCH: Toulouse grab a point at Rennes
Reduced to ten men before the break following André Leya Iseka's red card, Casanova saw his side fall behind to a controversial penalty before Jean-Clair Todibo headed in his first Ligue 1 Conforama goal two minutes from time to salvage an unlikely but deserved point.
"You have to salute the courage of the whole squad. It's a deserved point we'll be taking home happily with us to Toulouse," said goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet, who made a number of key saves and saw James Lea-Siliki twice hit the woodwork.
"I don't think we have shown the full extent of our talent in technical terms, but mentally, we're already there. We didn't want Aaron's dismissal to make us lose the game. We fought for him. It was a point won together."
Casanova: 'Impressive mental qualities'
"I'm proud of the team, the squad, because they have remarkable and impressive mental qualities," said Casanova, who returned to the club this summer after a three-year hiatus. "We didn't play the game we had hoped to play. We're still lacking confidence when we play a team which has quality, which has good individuals. We struggle to let ourselves go."
Casanova will hope his team can do that against their visitors from the Côte d'Azur, who have lost just one and won two of their last four visits to the Stadium. He will be without midfielder John Bostock, who has an adductor problem, while Leya Iseka starts a three-game ban and Kelvin Amian serves a one-match suspension.
Balotelli will also be absent as he continues to work his way back to fitness, while midfielder Jean Victor Makengo is sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained in the 3-0 loss at home to Paris Saint-Germain last weekend.
WATCH: Neymar Jr and PSG bring Nice to heel
The Neymar Jr-orchestrated defeat was just the second in a five-match run that includes three victories which have helped Patrick Vieira's men pull themselves into mid-table ahead of what the former New York City FC coach knows will be a testing trip.
"At home, Toulouse are very difficult to play against. They have quality in their squad," Vieira explained.
"They're a lot better than last year," added midfielder Pierre Lees-Melou. "They have a new playing style, more aggressive and scoring a good few goals. It won't be easy. We'll have to be aggressive, united, harry them to stop them playing and impose our style of play even away from home. We have to win these kinds of matches against direct rivals."
Toulouse: Reynet – Moreira, Todibo, Jullien, Moubandjé – M.Garcia, I.Sangaré – Dossevi, Durmaz, Gradel (cap.) – Mubele
Nice: Benitez – Jallet, Hérelle, Dante (cap.), M.Sarr, Boscagli – Lees-Melou, Tameze, Walter – Saint-Maximin, Maolida