PREVIEW: RC Lens v OGC Nice – Week 19
Things are looking slightly up for RC Lens this week. An investment of €2.5 million into the club means they have been granted permission to sign players in January. Also, two points in their last two games has given them a slight chance to escape the relegation zone before the winter break.
Friday’s test against Nice will be tough, however. Claude Puel’s side may have struggled at home, but on the road they have impressed. Les Aiglons have won three out of their last five away games and they will be confident of making it four at the Stade de la Licorne. Their 0-0 draw at home to Saint-Etienne will feel like a point gained, but success this weekend is a must.
The bottom half of the table is tight and tense. Nice are 11th, but only six points ahead of Lens down in 19th. The home side would throw a cat amongst the pigeons with a win on Friday.
For Lens, Loick Landre is still out serving his suspension, so Ahmed Kantari and Jean-Philippe Gbamin will partner up in the centre of defence. Antoine Kombouaré has to decide between in-form Baptiste Guillaume or Yohan Touzghar upfront, with the former scoring a lovely header last week in the Montpellier comeback, before Touzghar came off the bench to score the equaliser.
For Nice, Puel is without both Carlos Eduardo and Nampalys Mendy through suspension; despite his five-goal haul against Guingamp, Eduardo is yet to score again so Mendy will be the bigger loss on Friday. They are also without Swedish midfielder Hult, so the midfield trio in Puel’s 4-2-3-1 should be Didier Digard, Albert Rafetraniaina and Valentin Eysseric.
Puel will have to cast his mind back to his time in charge of Lille, with memories of taking on Lens in the heated Derby du Nord. He will need that attitude as both sides go to war in Lens temporary home.
Four years have passed since they last played this fixture, back in October 2010; they left it late, but Issam Jemaa’s 91st minute winner gave the home side all three points. If Nice want to pick up the victory, they will need to wipe out 26 years of history. OGCN last won in Lens back in 1988 with a single goal from Jules Bocandé.
With the table so close in the bottom half, winning games against the teams beside you is as crucial as always. Nice won’t be worried about relegation just yet, but failure to pick up any points on this trip could cast doubts among Puel’s men.
It’s difficult to separate these sides. Nice may not have won away at Lens in 26 years, but a draw isn’t out of the question.
Lens (4-3-3): Riou – Cavaré, Gbamin, Kantari, Baal – Le Moigne, Bourigeaud, Valdivia – Coulibaly, Nomenjanahary, Guillaume
Injuries: N’Diaye – Suspensions: Landre
Nice (4-2-3-1): Pouplin – Palun, Genevois, Bodmer, Amavi – Digard, Rafetraniaina – Puel, Eysseric, Bautheac – Plea
Injuries: Hult, Delle, Mah. Traore, Pentecote – Suspensions: Carlos Eduardo, Mendy