After contrasting Europa League results, Nice entertain Olympique de Marseille on Sunday in an important match for both clubs.
OM boss Rudi Garcia made seven changes to his starting eleven as they fell 1-0 to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, ending a run of three consecutive victories in all competitions. The one major positive for OM fans was seeing Greek international forward Kostas Mitroglou make his debut off the bench.
Garcia conceded: “I didn’t think I’d bring Mitroglou on but we were losing 1-0 and we needed an extra attacker on the field. I don’t regret any of my choices as bringing in the likes of Germain, Sanson and Lopez didn’t weaken the team. Steve Mandanda was due a rest and I couldn’t use Dimitri Payet, but both of those will play against Nice on Sunday.”
Mitoglou, signed for 15 million euros from Benfica late in the transfer window, hadn’t played since sustaining a hamstring injury at the Emirates Cup in July while playing for his previous employers. Initially expected to keep him out for around three weeks, the injury ended up sidelining the 29-year-old for closer to two months. The former Fulham and Olympiakos hitman is poised to play a role against Les Aiglons on Sunday before linking up with Greece for crucial World Cup qualifiers against Cyprus and Gibraltar.
Before the Salzburg game, Mitroglou’s team-mate Bouna Sarr revealed: “We haven’t seen a lot of him as he’s been training apart from the squad and receiveing treatment. He seems to be in a pretty good physical state and full of running. He’s a little bit discreet and we’re trying to help him.”
Nice, meanwhile, were comfortable 3-0 winners against Vitesse Arnhem as Alassane Plea scored his second Europa League double in as many games and Allan Saint-Maximin netted the other. Nice have won four of their last five games in all competitions and Lucien Favre’s 4-4-2 is working wonders.
The Swiss coach said: “Plea and Mario Balotelli have great potential to improve their understanding. That goes for playing the right pass and the co-ordination in the way they press our opponents. Plea is scoring regularly at the moment and long may it continue. He has a lot he can improve on, especially the way he takes the ball in and his first touch.”
Saint-Maximin has scored in both Europa League outings and is living up to his club record fee since joining from neighbours Monaco. Favre commented: “He scored a spectacular goal. I’ve told him he needs to keep working and he’s got a lot of work to do. He’s only 20. He needs to learn how to play one-touch football off both feet and to get involved with the team play between the lines. He can do more defensively to do but he really gives a lot.”
The effectiveness of the 4-4-2 has been detrimental to Wesley Sneijder, the Dutch star not even travelling to his home country. Favre explained pre-match: “He was behind with his pre-season and then injured an ankle. He’s more or less ready but now we have an established system. His preferred role is as a nine-and-a-half and we’re playing 4-4-2. The season is still long and a lot can happen but he’d need the system to change.”