Preview : OGC Nice v FK Krasnodar – Europa League

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Hello and welcome to a match that means absolutely nothing as both teams are already locked into their finishing positions – FKK will come second in the group, and Nice are out.

Nice are in this position because they had to go to Schalke and get a result in the last round – they lost 2-0. They key match, however, was before that, when they lost 2-0 at home to Salzburg, who haven’t been great in the shakes department. So now they are playing for pride only, and against the team that beat them 5-2 in their first encounter.

The thing is, watching the match in Russia, they were still fun to watch. They looked lively and creative and slightly off-the-wall. They just lost 5-2. That takes some talent.

Nice might not be that bothered, however, after a 3-0 win over Toulouse at the weekend maintains their top-spot position in Ligue 1 where they are three points clear of the frankly frightening Monaco after PSG’s rather surprising defeat at Montpellier. And OGCN go to the reigning champions on Sunday evening. That, understandably, will be their focus.

Under the circumstances, you’d expect the coach to play the kids, give them a run-out, senior experience, etc and so on. However Nice mostly *are* the kids anyway. Apart from Mathieu Bodmer and Dante, obviously. So Lucien Favre is digging even deeper into the bag of promising youngsters to rest key players in the hope that PSG will be a mild shambles again, and that this will be enough to go out with reasonable dignity, banking on the fact that the home faithful also probably don’t give a damn.

Most of those responsible for Nice’s fine league season will not feature tonight. It’s got to the point where Favre is resting 17-year-old centre-back Malang Sarr because he is so crucial to the team, as well as pivotal players such as Wylan Cyprien, Jean Seri, and Younes Belhanda, apparently back to his goal-scoring, assist-making, back-flipping best.

So – the squad list contains few familiar names. Mario Balotelli is back, and Maxime Le Marchand returns after a lengthy ACL lay-off to make his first appearance of the season. Some of the youngsters have appeared on squad lists if not the pitch (Arnaud Lusamba, Vincent Marcel, Patrick Burner), but several are getting their first senior call-ups from the CFA squad (Romain Perraud, Joakim Balmy, William Suaut) or the U19s (Hicham Mahou).

This could be a tedious 0-0 where the most attacking move is from Mefi the eagle pre-match (has any other team’s mascot got a stadium ban from the LFP?), but that’s hardly the point. In the summer, PSG’s march to a fifth consecutive title looked crushingly inevitable; now, it’s got way more interesting. And in large part we have Lucien Favre and his frequently 3-5-2 gang of kids to thank for that.

The Nice team will be weird. Krasnodar will be their usual bullish selves. Here’s hoping for another seven-goal thriller, with everyone enjoying themselves safe in the knowledge that it means nothing other than the chance to see some more promising prospects and what they can do.

 

Nice squad : Cardinale, Benitez – Souquet, Le Marchand, Boscagli, Burner, Perraud, Balmy, Suaut – Vercauteren, Lusamba, Albert, Bodmer, Marcel – Balotelli, Donis, Bosetti, Mahou.

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