Preview : Krasnodar v Nice – Europa League
Nice are riding high in Ligue 1 at the moment, but had a difficult evening of it when Schalke visited the Allianz Riviera, the visitors getting twenty shots off in their 1-0 win. Now les Aiglons face an archetypal tricky away trip, 3,000 km away in Krasnodar, in search of points.
Founded only in 2008, FCK are currently sixth in the Premier League with 12 points after 8 games, most recently getting a 1-1 draw away at CSKA Moscow. They have made the Europa group stage for the third consecutive year, and last season topped their group, which contained PAOK, Qabala, and Borussia Dortmund, before losing 4-0 on aggregate to Sparta Prague in the round of 32.
Their squad is captained by Swedish international Andreas Granqvist, briefly of Wigan, and top-scorer is Fedor Smolov, who got the goal against CSKA, bringing his total for the season to ten. There is the traditional sprinkling of Brazilians (left-winger Joãozinho recently received Russian citizenship but they are yet to change his flag on the website – he got the winner against RB Salzburg in the first group game) and also Burkinabe international and ex-OM midfielder Charles Kaboré.
Lucien Favre faces a couple of decisions: first, naturally, the degree to which he rotates his squad, as this will be Nice’s sixth game in 18 days, and they will be looking to keep hold of top spot as Lorient visit on Sunday. Secondly, whether to stick with the 3-5-2 Nice have been rocking (with some in-game adjustments) since the 3-2 win over Marseille in game 4. Third, Mario Balotelli missed the weekend’s 1-0 win at Nancy through injury, and was also rested against Montpellier earlier on in the fixture pile-up; he is back in the squad, but whether he is 100% to start will also be interesting.
Questions for the rest of us will include all of the above, and whether Malang Sarr and Wylan Cyprien will continue their fine starts to the season. FCK have a solid home record so this will be tricky – will we see the Nice that turned up against Monaco, or the less focussed iteration against Nancy?
Prediction: Krasnodar 1 – 1 Nice
Nice squad : Hassen, Cardinale, Benitez – Souquet, Baysse, Ricardo, Boscagli, Dalbert, Dante, Sarr – Belhanda, Seri, Lusamba, Eysseric, Walter, Cyprien, Koziello – Balotelli, Bosetti, Plea, Donis.