Montpellier were lucky to return with a point from their trip to Guingamp last round (finished 1-1). They opened the score early, but opponents took control afterwards and were disallowed the winner in the dying moments.
Hosts scored 4 goals so far (1 per round), but only one goal was scored by a forward. This perfectly illustrates the situation at Montpellier, who are forced to rely on midfielders both for creating chances and converting them.
Midfielders rapidly exhaust their energy, and there’s nothing left for Montpellier to do, except withdraw in defense and accept opponents’ domination. They have decent players in the defensive phase, but nobody can resist to constant pressure, even if the domination is mild.
Hosts will once again miss central defender Hilton.
Nice are coming after a difficult Europa League game against Schalke (lost 1-0). They resisted the best they could for more than an hour, but Schalke are playing at a different level and in the end the defeat couldn’t be avoided.
In-spite the loss in Europa League, Nice clearly improved with the arrival of forward Balotelli and midfielder Belhanda. Balotelli already scored twice last round against Marseille (Nice won 3-2), while Belhanda is yet to settle in, and only played around 15 minutes last week.
It seems they will be using a 3-5-2 formula from now on, with a very energetic midfield led by experienced Bodmer, who recovered from injury this week. Forwards Balotelli and Plea upfront are highly skilled players and usually don’t play around with chances.
Nice clearly have an advantage, both when it comes to attacking resources and energy levels in midfield. Bookies failed to do their homework and give way too much credit to Montpellier. NICE +0.25 at 1.91
UPDATE: Hosts will welcome back defender Hilton who missed last round. Nice will have to do without forward Balotelli.
Montpellier : Jourdren, Pionnier – Poaty, Vanden Borre, Deplagne, Hilton, W.Rémy, Congré, Roussillon – Skhiri, Y.Sylla, J.Marveaux, Sanson, Boudebouz – Ninga, Bérigaud, Mounié, S.Camara
Nice : Cardinale, Hassen – Baysse, Boscagli, Dalbert, Dante, R.Pereira, M.Sarr, Souquet – Bodmer, Cyprien, Eysseric, Koziello, Walter – Belhanda, Donis, Lusamba, Plea