Europa Preview : Nice, Marseille and Lyon in action

Nice v Vitesse

On to game three of the Europa League group stage, and the back-to-back games that will have a big bearing on the final standings. So far things are going per the form book results-wise for Marseille and Nice, but Lyon have looked a little shaky with two draws against the lower-ranked teams in group E.

Nice v Lazio

Nice have two wins out of two, against Zulte Waregem and Vitesse; perhaps expected given their respective rankings, but the manner of those wins has given cause for optimism. First, a 5-1 away win in Belgium, and then a 3-0 win at home against Vitesse, to give them a +7 goal difference to cherry up their six points.

Domestically speaking they had a slight set-back at the weekend, losing 2-0 away at Montpellier, but even that was perhaps not too much cause for concern. Dominating possession, they had eight shots on target, and were frustrated mostly by Benjamin Lecomte having one of those games in goal for La Paillade (see David Wall’s tweet – keeping a clean sheet in the face of such an onslaught has happened only 20 times in the last 10 years in Ligue 1).

Lucien Favre and his men will therefore be hoping that Lazio don’t manage that sort of defensive performance, but that might be overly optimistic. Last weekend Lazio won 2-1 away at Juventus, becoming the first team in 57 games (all competitions) to beat Juventus in Turin, with a brace from Ciro Immobile, and a 97th minute penalty save from Albanian keeper Thomas Strakosha.

With that result putting Lazio third in Serie A (while Nice are 14th in Ligue 1, having already lost five), this will be a key game in the group between the two teams on six points. Nice will be hoping to put Sunday’s frustration behind them and get back to their free-scoring Europa ways, hoping for at least a point before the away leg. On that, the club will be comping the tickets for their supporters, although in less edifying news they are also selling half-and-half scarves for the home tie.

Squad : Cardinale, Benitez – Jallet, Souquet, Sarr, Burner, Dante, Marlon, Le Marchand – Koziello, Mendy, Lusamba, Walter, Lees-Melou – Balotelli, Plea, Sneijder, Srarfi

OM v Vitoria

Marseille are currently fourth in Ligue 1 after another highly-entertaining-for-the-neutral display away at Strasbourg on Sunday evening, which ended 3-3 after an 88th minute equaliser from Kostas Mitroglou on his debut appearance in the league. Again, their Europa results have gone to form, beating Konyaspor and losing away to Red Bull Salzburg, but the win was hardly convincing (Adil Rami the scorer) and they remain fairly unpredictable.

Time, then, for a little bit of by-the-book as they host Vitoria, currently 9th in the Primeira Liga having scored only seven in eight games while conceding 14. They managed a 1-1 draw against Salzburg in the first match, but lost away in Turkey to put them bottom of the group.

OM will be hoping that stays that way, but with a slightly trickier fixture coming up on Sunday as they host PSG, a degree of rotation can be expected and that tends not to go that well. Marseille should win this but Rudi Garcia’s starting eleven will be key to how this pans out.

Squad : Pele, Mandanda – Sakai, Kamara, Rolando, Abdennour, Amavi, Evra, Rami – Sanson, Gustavo, Sertic, Lopez, Zambo Aguissa – Ocampos, Payet, Mitroglou, Njie, Sarr, Thauvin, Germain

Everton v OL

Finally, the late game is between two teams who have rather screwed up in their matches so far. Lyon have two points after twice giving up the lead, drawing with both Apollon and Atalanta. Everton are in worse shape having lost 3-0 to Atalanta and drawing 2-2 at home to Apollon (who have managed late equalisers in both matches so far). Still, at least they scored – 16th in the Premier League having scored only five goals in eight games, this looks rather like a match-up of the team who can’t score versus the team who can’t defend.

Lyon come into this on the back of a heartening 3-2 win over Monaco on Friday night, in which the concept of defending missed the first half with a migraine and Nabil Fekir continued his apparent one-man mission to get OL back up to the podium places, scoring a 95th minute freekick (and what a freekick) to take the three points.

Having kept clean sheets in just two of 11 matches so far (Strasbourg and Nantes), OL will be hoping that Anthony Lopes gets some help at the back while the attack channels its respectable Ligue 1 conversion rate (15%) rather than its less so 5% (two goals from 38 shots) in Europe. Everton seem the perfect team to help with that, but then again, might be looking at the revolving and occasionally falling over Lyon backline as their chance to score a couple of goals.

Worrying for OL, they will be without Mariano Diaz and Ferland Mendy for this trip, and Jeremy Morel is also missing. Several youth teamers are in the group including defender Dylan Mboumbouni, midfielder Elisha Owusu and attacker Alan Dzabana. It looks like another all-change line-up for OL in which Fekir could again be the key player.

Squad : Gorgelin, Grange, Lopes – Diakhaby, Marçal, Marcelo, Mboumbouni, Rafael, Tete, Yanga Mbiwa – Aouar, Ferri, Ndombele, Owusu, Tousart – Cornet, Dzabana, Fekir, Memphis, Myziane, Traoré

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