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Preview: Nice vs. Le Havre – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday’s Ligue 1 clash between Nice and Le Havre, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Still vying for Champions League qualification, Nice welcome Le Havre to the Allianz Riviera for Friday’s Ligue 1 showdown.

Both teams coincidentally come into the encounter with 3-1 triumphs over Strasbourg to their name from their most recent matches, although the hosts have had longer to recuperate from their latest success.

Match preview

Nice coach Francesco Farioli reacts on January 13, 2024© Reuters

Owing to Paris Saint-Germain’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to make the Champions League final, Nice’s proposed encounter with the reigning champions was pushed back to next Wednesday, allowing Francesco Farioli‘s troops the rare luxury of a weekend off at the start of May.

Not all within the Allianz Riviera may have welcomed the brief hiatus, though, as Nice have recently reignited their top-four bid with a four-game unbeaten streak in the top flight, having previously lost five from six in all tournaments during a dismal spell from February to March.

Taking eight points from 12 in that solid sequence, Les Aiglons bested Lorient 3-0 either side of draws away to Reims and Marseille before a come-from-behind success versus Strasbourg, where Evann Guessand, Dante and Morgan Sanson cancelled out a Dilane Bakwa opener.

With Lille suffering two defeats from their last three, fifth-placed Nice have cut the gap to Les Dogues to just four points and also have a game in hand on the 2020-21 Ligue 1 champions, whom they face on the final weekend on what could potentially be a straight shootout for fourth spot.

Les Aiglons may not be the same study defensive force they once were, but 25 goals conceded across the season still remains the best record of its kind, and they are the only French top-flight side yet to see their goals conceded column at home tick into the double figures, letting in just nine on their own patch thus far.

Paris Saint-Germain's Lee Kang-in in action with Le Havre's Arouna Sangante and Daler Kuzyayev on December 3, 2023© Reuters

Le Havre’s ambitions for the final weeks of the season are much more modest, but Friday’s visitors to the Allianz Riviera are on the cusp of securing mathematical safety thanks to two standout results in their last two matches, firstly delaying Paris Saint-Germain’s title party with a 3-3 draw on the champions’ turf.

As Nice put their feet up last weekend, Luka Elsner‘s squad emulated their upcoming hosts with their own two-goal success over Strasbourg, where a pair of Yassine Kechta headers and a late Andre Ayew effort did the damage, rendering Frederic Guilbert‘s own aerial effort inconsequential.

Six points clear of the automatic drop zone and three above the relegation playoff spot with just two games remaining, Le Havre require just one draw from their last two games to avoid an immediate demotion down to Ligue 2, and simply bettering Metz’s result this weekend would also assure them of top-flight football for next year.

Elsner’s men will not be breathing at all easy, though, as their gameweek 34 encounter sees them welcome Marseille to their humble home, and they are without a win in 10 Ligue 1 away games since edging past Toulouse at the start of November.

However, Le Havre have been the dominant force in this matchup down the years – earning 24 victories compared to a paltry eight for Nice – and they prevailed by a 3-1 scoreline over Farioli’s men in December, where the referee brandished two red cards – one for each team – rather than Christmas cards.

Nice Ligue 1 form:

Le Havre Ligue 1 form:

Team News

Nice's Pablo Rosario and Jordan Lotomba look dejected after the match on January 13, 2024© Reuters

The lengthy recuperation period has offered Nice ample time to battle back from any bumps or bruises, but Sofiane Diop remains out for the season with his foot injury, while Valentin Rosier‘s thigh issue renders him doubtful as well.

However, all starters and substitutes from the win over Strasbourg came out unscathed, so Farioli should not alter a winning formula too much, although Sanson certainly has a case to start over Hicham Boudaoui in the centre.

Pablo Rosario – a holding midfielder by trade – was fielded on the right-hand side of defence by Farioli last time out, and the Netherlands international will presumably hold his spot in the backline here, forcing Jordan Lotomba to watch on from the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Le Havre’s only fitness concern relates to striker Mohamed Bayo – scorer of Le Havre’s third in December’s triumph over Nice – who is nursing a sprained ankle and is not expected to be involved on Friday night.

Elsner will, however, receive a double defensive boost in the shape of Loic Nego and Arouna Sangante‘s returns from suspension, and the latter should almost certainly slot back into the visitors’ backline, but Nego may lose out to Yoann Salmier.

A formation change may be in order if Sangante – sporting the captain’s armband – is to immediately return to the fold, which could spell bad news for Emmanuel Sabbi, despite his brace in December’s beating of Les Aiglons.

Nice possible starting lineup:
Bulka; Rosario, Todibo, Dante, Bard; Sanson, Ndayishimiye, Thuram; Cho, Guessand, Boga

Le Havre possible starting lineup:
Desmas; Youte Kinkoue, Lloris, Sangante; Salmier, Toure, Targhalline, Operi; Kechta; Casimir, Ayew

SM words green background

We say: Nice 2-0 Le Havre

Morale is high in both camps right now, but Nice have partially returned to their former defensive ways, while Le Havre’s rearguard record on the road still leaves a lot to be desired.

A lengthy rest could either be a help or a hindrance for Farioli’s men, but we still have faith in the Champions League hopefuls to get the job done and leave Le Havre relying on other results to go their way.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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