Nice battle to keep Champions League hopes alive

OGC Nice – FC Lorient Sunday at 13:00 CET (1100 GMT)


Nice appeared nailed on to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition after a rousing 1-0 home win over Paris Saint-Germain in early March left them clear in second place in the Ligue 1 Uber Eats table. Yet since then have completely gone off the boil and slumped down to fifth place after last weekend’s games, five points behind Stade Rennais FC in third.

While Olympique de Marseille have won four on the bounce in the league and Rennes have continued to pick up points, Nice have picked up just two points from the last 12 available and even slipped below RC Strasbourg Alsace. They have also left themselves exposed to the chasing pack below, with AS Monaco and LOSC Lille closing in. Suddenly the approaching Côte d’Azur derby in midweek looks massive, and the danger could even be that Les Aiglons miss out on European qualification altogether, at least via the league.

Highlights: Nice suffer heavy defeat at Lens

Perhaps Christophe Galtier’s players are already being distracted by the approaching Coupe de France final against FC Nantes on May 7, but Lorient’s visit is the first of four games Nice have to play before that huge occasion.

After beating PSG, Nice battled to a 0-0 draw away at Montpellier Hérault SC despite having Dante sent off in the first half. They then lost 2-1 away in Marseille before being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Rennes. None of those results were a disgrace by any means, but last Sunday’s 3-0 loss away at RC Lens was deeply concerning, especially as Galtier’s side finished with nine men as both Mario Lemina and Dante were shown red cards in the second half.

Lorient on the up

“Nice played against a Lens team who were real competitors and Lens played a Nice team who had some players who came here as tourists. It is unacceptable, ”said Galtier after that game at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis. “Too many of our players did not show up. We will see what happens now. To say that I am ashamed would not be far off. I really hope we are not in the process of chucking away all the good work we have done over the last eight months. That would be a shame and disrespectful. ”

Victory here is essential going into the derby, but Lorient travel south in buoyant mood after their stunning 6-2 win over relegation rivals AS Saint-Etienne last weekend. Terem Moffi and Ibrahima Koné both scored twice as Les Merlus came from two goals down to claim a stunning victory that pulled them four points clear of the bottom three.

Highlights: Lorient hit Saint-Etienne for six

The Brittany side were in the automatic relegation places, three points away from safety, at the end of January. Since then they have collected 14 points in nine outings and are on course to evade the drop, with crucial games against the likes of FC Metz, Girondins de Bordeaux and ESTAC Troyes still to come.

“This squad has always had a positive mindset, even when things have not been going well. We have got some joy back and we have had a really good week in training. What happened last Friday can only give us a boost. We need to ride on these positive waves, ”said coach Christophe Pelissier.

“We still have seven difficult matches to go and we are going to need some more really good performances. Thirty-one points will not be enough for us to stay up, ”added the coach, who is without Julien Laporte, Jérémy Morel, Enzo Le Fée and Stéphane Diarra.

Probable teams

Nice: Benitez; Lotomba, Todibo, Rosario, M.Bard; Kluivert, Thuram, Boudaoui (or Schneirderlin); Gouiri, Delort, Dolberg.

  • Lorient: Dreyer; Mendes, Jenz, Petrot, Le Goff; Boisgard (or Innocent), Monconduit, Abergel; Ouatarra, Moffi, Laurienté.

>> NEWS: Discipline – Two matches for Dante, Haïdara

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.