By I. Holyman
Claudio Ranieri has warned his FC Nantes side they can ill afford to just rely on their imperious home record when OGC Nice arrive at the Stade de la Beaujoire on Sunday.
FC Nantes – OGC Nice
Nantes head into Week 17 of the Ligue 1 Conforama season in fifth place seeking to close the five-point gap that separates themselves from second-placed Olympique Lyonnais in what promises to be a spirited race for the European qualifying places.
After a run of three defeats in four league games and just one victory in five competitive outings, Ranieri has seen his side keep themselves in contention with a win and a draw in their last two league games.
Les Canaris have won their last five home matches, but their coach is aware that Nice, third last season, will not happily settle for becoming another victim to Nantes’ brilliance at the Beaujoire.
WATCH: Nantes claim a point at Saint-Etienne
“It’ll be a good match. Nice played fantastically last year. This year, they’ve had ups and downs. But they have good players, a good coach…it’ll be a great game on Sunday. And it’s good for us. It’ll allow us to see the level at which we are at,” Ranieri explained.
“I think they’re going to get back to playing how they did last year. It’s not possible to forget the dynamic and your style of play. We will have to be very focussed.”
Ranieri: ‘Pick up points’
During their dip in form, Ranieri had urged his team to bring to the fore their main strength, their concentration, in a bid to turn things round. That was evident in the win over AS Monaco that was then followed by the battling 1-1 draw at AS Saint-Etienne last time out.
“It’s important to pick up points. You must never stop. We always play for the three points, but the most important thing is to take points,” said Ranieri, who will have midfielders Rene Krhin and Valentin Rongier available after injuries.
“In Saint-Etienne, we wanted to win. But if you have to drop points, you take at least a point, it’s positive. We move forward.”
WATCH: Nice see off Metz
Nice have done just that in recent weeks after a disastrous start to the league season that saw them more likely to finish in the bottom three than repeat their impressive finale to the 2016-17 campaign.
As recently as the 5-0 drubbing they suffered at home to Olympique Lyonnais in Week 14, Nice found themselves in the relegation zone, but back-to-back wins have cleared some of the clouds on the Mediterranean coast.
Their 1-0 loss at Vitesse Arnhem in Thursday’s final UEFA Europa League group-stage tie has done little to dampen the buoyant mood given Nice had already secured their place in the knockout stages and coach Lucien Favre had rested virtually a full first-choice XI.
The Swiss boss also had the pleasure of bringing key midfielder Wylan Cyprien back into competitive football for the first time since he ruptured knee ligaments in March.
“I feel good. Once the rhythm has come back, it will be fine. I am not saying that the level will be the same straight away, but you quickly get back your sensations. Once I will be there physically, I will be able to help the team,” said the France Under-21 international, who scored eight goals and registered three assists last season before his injury.
“I am not rushing it, I think it’s important to stay on one match a week for the moment. We will discuss it with the coach, I will allow him to decide in the end, I will be ready if he wants to include me in the squad for Sunday.”
Nantes: to follow
Nice: to follow