PREVIEW | Nice v Partizan Belgrade: European adventure a welcome distraction from Ligue 1 troubles

With just one win in their last five Ligue 1 matches, OGC Nice will relish Thursday night’s Europa Conference League match against Partizan Belgrade as a welcome distraction. Their domestic difficulties leave them languishing in 12th, 14 points off the Ligue 1 podium. 

Unlike under Christophe Galtier last year, it looks improbable that Lucien Favre’s Nice will challenge for the Champions League places this year, bar a spectacular and rapid turnaround, although given the quality that runs through the squad, it would be silly to rule them out of the running for the European places. 

There are, however, other ways to qualify for European competition last season, and winning the Europa Conference League is one of them. Consistency has alluded them in their group stage performances, but despite that, their destiny is in their own hands. On five points, they are three points behind table-toppers and opponents on the night, Partizan Belgrade. Whilst a victory at the Allianz Riviera wouldn’t necessarily guarantee them qualification to the knockout stages, it would be a considerable step towards that goal. 

Favre still hasn’t got his team playing the way he’d like. Replacing Galtier, he was posited as a change candidate, one who would mark a significant departure from the defense-oriented style with which the Niçois faithful got bored. However, that hasn’t come to pass, yet. Galtier’s reign was based on a delicate compromise that his unattractive style would earn points. Favre has not yet managed to bring free-flowing, attacking football back to the Riviera, whilst the defensive solidity of the group has been compromised. 

Speaking before the match, Favre bemoaned the lack of time on the training pitch, an unfortunate by-product of competing in Europe. However, he also believes that a couple of good victories could provide the necessary confidence to go on a run. Qualification from the group stages, would certainly engender a positivity that could spark a domestic revival too. 

Sofiane Diop and Andy Delort are still absent through injury, whilst Ross Barkley is ineligible for the group stages. Jordan Lotomba, who went off during the 1-1 draw against Nantes will also miss the game, although his injury is not thought to be serious. 

Nice predicted XI v Partizan Belgrade:

Bulka – Viti, Dante, Rosario – Bryan, Ramsey, Lemina, Thuram, Atal – Laborde, Pépé.


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