Sports Mole previews Friday’s Ligue 1 clash between Nice and Nantes, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Despite being a man short for most of their previous match versus Brest, Les Aiglons maintained their second-place standing with a 3-0 win, while Les Canaris kept Monaco at bay, with a 0-0 draw.
It may not have been the way Christophe Galtier had drawn it up, but a win is a win, and despite being dominated for long stretches of their weekend affair, they were able to claim their fourth consecutive victory in all competitions.
Overcoming adversity is essential to becoming a quality side who can contend for the domestic title and this squad have been able to do that throughout the 2021-22 campaign, failing to score in three straight league games before going on their current run, while also coming back from a goal down to beat Lens in their last fixture of 2021, by a 2-1 margin.
Despite being reduced to 10-men after 20 minutes of play last Sunday, Nice still came away with the victory, becoming the first team in the French top flight since Lille to win after being shorthanded for such a long spell, with Les Dogues overcoming the sending off of Jose Fonte in the 16th minute to beat Nimes back in 2018.
With 36 points from 20 games, many results have gone their way so far this season, and they have their goalkeeper to thank for a lot of those points, with the team conceding 22 targeted efforts over their previous three Ligue 1 affairs.
Not only have they allowed their share of scoring opportunities to their opponents, but they have been missing that quality needed in the final third on home soil, going goalless in three straight matches played at Allianz Riviera before their victory against Les Sang et Or.
While they have only conceded 17 goals in the league thus far, the second-fewest, this is still an aggressive team who come at you in waves and can catch you in transition, having scored several memorable strikes to this point of the campaign.
Sunday was another solid defensive outing for Antoine Kombouare and La Maison Jaune, who held the third-highest scoring team in Ligue 1 from a season ago (Monaco) to only a single shot on target.
Their 58-year-old manager, who collected over 150 caps for Nantes as a player, has done a good job of turning this side into a more responsible team this season, who have had plenty of numbers behind the ball to cut off the time and space of the opposition.
They may be a sharp and stout defensive unit, however, this side have had trouble putting together enough scoring opportunities as their creativity has been lacking recently.
With this team now beyond the midway point of the campaign, they are in a much better position than in 2020-21, as they are currently in ninth, trailing fourth-place Rennes by two points.
Nantes have shown a lot of poise and patience away from home, unbeaten in their previous four road matches played in all competitions, collecting a clean sheet in their last three.
Les Canaris have collected at least a point in each of their previous four Ligue 1 games, the longest such unbeaten run for this club in the top flight since winning four in a row in between April and May of last year.
Nice Ligue 1 form:
Nice form (all competitions):
Nantes Ligue 1 form:
Nantes form (all competitions):
Nice will be without midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, as the former Manchester United man was given his marching orders in the early stages of their match with Brest last weekend, while Mario Lemina and Youcef Atal are representing Gabon and Algeria respectively at the Africa Cup of Nations and Robson Bambu has not yet fully healed from his ankle injury.
Goals from Kasper Dolberg, Andy Delort and Amine Gouiri gave Les Aiglons the victory this past weekend, but none of that would have been possible if not for the heroics of Walter Benitez, as the Argentine made 10 saves to collect his first clean sheet since the start of December.
Dutch striker Justin Kluivert has been much more involved in the scoring for this team, with a goal and an assist in his last two league games, notching three assists so far in this campaign, putting him in second on the team behind Gouiri.
Four players are missing for Nantes due to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, including Jean-Charles Castelletto, Charles Traore, Kalifa Coulibaly and Moses Simon, who are with Cameroon, Mali (Traore and Coulibaly) and Nigeria, respectively, while midfielder Wylan Cyprien is still nursing an ankle issue.
Goalkeeper Alban Lafont got plenty of help from the Nantes back five of Fabio, Dennis Appiah, Andrei Girotto, Nicolas Pallois and Quentin Merlin, as the Burkina Faso back stopper only had to make one save this past weekend for his second successive shutout.
Nice possible starting lineup:
Benitez; Daniliuc, Dante, Todibo, Lotomba; Kluivert, Rosario, Thuram, Delort; Gouiri, Dolberg
Nantes possible starting lineup:
Lafont; Fabio, Corchia, Girotto, Pallois, Merlin; Bukari, Moutoussamy, Chirivella; Blas, Kolo Muani
We say: Nice 1-0 Nantes
Nice are finding ways to win the matches they need to, and this is another big one, and although they will not have the veteran presence of Schneiderlin, they have a keeper in fine form, who just stole three points away from Brest and should have an easier time against a Nantes side who do not have as much depth in attack.