Vitesse have recently gained fame for being the feeder club of English Premier League Champions Chelsea FC and for developing loan players such as Nemanja Matic, Bertrand Traore and Patrick Van Aanholt. The Dutch currently have several Chelsea players on loan, the most prominent being American centre back Matt Miazga.
Vitesse won their first major trophy in their 125 year history last season when they captured the KNVB Cup and currently sit 3rd in the Eredivisie with four wins, one draw and one loss. On matchday one of the Europa league they gave an extremely solid Lazio side a run for their money before eventually falling to a 2-3 defeat. Considering the strength of the Italian side a loss against Nice would make the chances of qualification from the group stage extremely slim.
Nice began the season abysmally but have slowly pulled themselves out of their poor form and secured an impressive 1-5 victory in Belgium against Zulte Waregem on matchday one. However, the French side only managed a 2-2 draw at home against Angers last weekend causing them to lose more ground on a Champions league position in Ligue 1. With the Europa League offering an alternative route towards Europe’s highest competition, Nice manager Lucien Favre is expected to put out a strong lineup knowing that a victory will put the French side in a prime position to qualify.
Nice welcome both Jean Michael Seri and Marlon back from injury, giving Lucien Favre a huge boost with both players having played key roles in Nice’s recent resurgence of form. Les Aiglons, however, will be without Nampalys Mendy who is out with a knee injury and Wylan Cyprien who is still missing due to a long term injury.
Lucien Favre has seemingly decided on a 4-4-2 as Nice’s go-to system this season, as it allows him to pair Alassane Plea and Mario Balotelli while still maintaining defensive solidity. Against Angers, however, the flaws in this plan were exposed as Nice struggled for creativity without Jean Michael Seri playing in the center of the pitch. His return should ease some of Favre’s concerns, but the fact that Nice’s entire attacking structure vanished with the loss of just one player will play in the back of Swiss tactician’s mind.
Vitesse have a clean bill of health with the exception of Arnold Kruiswijk, who was left in the Netherlands because of an injury. Vitesse have been married to the classic Dutch 4-3-3 this season and having a numerical superiority in the midfield could play a big part in the match’s result if Vitesse are efficient when in possession of the ball. When on the attack, Vitesse will be looking to find Albanian winger Milot Rashica whose direct style of play could cause problems for Christophe Jallet who is expected to start at left back for Nice.
OGC Nice – Mario Balotelli:
The Italian striker had a poor start to the season, and was publicly criticized by Lucien Favre for his attitude and effort after Nice crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers. However, ever since Nice’s 4-0 destruction of AS Monaco, a match in which Balotelli scored a brace, the Nice striker has been in top from and has followed up his goals against Monaco with strikes against Rennes, Zulte Waregem and Angers. Balotelli can be a frustrating player, but there is no doubt that when he plays to his full ability, he makes Nice a more dangerous and complete team.
Vitesse – Tim Matavz:
After disappointing spells in Germany and Italy, the Slovenian is back in the Eredivisie and appears to be rediscovering the type of goalscoring prowess that made him a feared striker for PSV. Matavz has six goals in nine appearances this season including one against Lazio. Vitesse go into this match as underdogs but possess enough attacking talent to trouble a Nice backline that has looked extremely suspect at times this season. With Matavz firing on all cylinders, the Dutch side may fancy themselves to nick a result in France.
Despite faltering last weekend against Angers, Nice will be quietly confident of a victory and I don’t expect them to be troubled too much by Vitesse.
Prediction: OGC Nice 3-1 Vitesse