Nice took Monaco by surprise last week, scored an early goal and concentrated all forces on defending on two lines afterwards (won 1-0). Very rarely they had the courage to threat on counters and lone striker Plea made impressive efforts every time the ball reached him.
Still, in the end the victory was well deserved as throughout the 90 minutes players made huge efforts and pushed beyond their limits. This vitality is by far Nice’s major strength and it seems it can even compensate the absence of top-scorer Cvitanich.
Nepotism is alive and well in football as coach Puel promoted his son in the winger position and although many of his passes and attempts went outside the stadium most likely he will be in the lineup again, diminishing Nice’s offensive power. They already have attacking problems and it will be interesting to see how Nice will perform when they need to attack and not defend continuously.
Nice may be without defenders Rafetraniaina and Genevois who are doubtful.
Even if Montpellier scored the winner in the dying moments their win against Guingamp was well deserved (won 2-1). Montpellier’s biggest problem seems to be the inability to keep a fast paced rythm and giving up initiative too easily. But the good news is they have really talented midfielders who don’t need prolonged possession in order to make the difference.
Giving the ball away is not the end of the world for Montpellier, as whenever they try to impose the rythm Montpellier leave many open spaces and simply invite opponents to take take advantage.
In the last two rounds Nice have simply been an example of willpower. If they will continue with that attitude there is no doubt positive results will follow regardless players’ mediocre skills. Nice should be the ones pulling the strings in this game but Montpellier can reach the penalty box from only two passes. Remains to be seen if Nice’s reduced offensive potential and Montpellier’s talented midfielders will tilt the balance.
UPDATE: Nice will miss central defender Genevois.
Nice: Hassen, Pouplin – Amavi, Bodmer, S.Diawara, K.Gomis, Palun, G.Puel – Digard, Bauthéac, Eduardo, Eysseric, Hult, N.Mendy, Vercauteren – Bosetti, Maupay, Plea
Montpellier: Jourdren, Ligali – Congré, Hilton, Tiéné, El Kaoutari, Deplagne, Saint-Ruf – J.Marveaux, J.Martin, Lasne, Sanson, Saihi, B.Dabo – Mounier, Bérigaud, Montaño, S.Camara, Barrios