Nice returns to Ligue 1 action after the winter break with the status of PSG’s closest challenger. The Eagles are eight points behind the leaders in second place, but they need a quick turnaround if they want to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in their history.
All three of Nice’s recent losses have come away from home, so they will be glad to be back at the Allianz Riviera, where they have been unbeaten in Ligue 1 all season (6 wins, 3 draws), including a run of five straight wins. Four of those wins have been clean sheets, and the club has a total of 11, the most in Ligue 1. That also makes Nice one of the best defensive teams in Europe.
Those are worrying signs for a Metz side that is in free fall. The Grenats’ promising start to the season has quickly turned sour, and they have now lost five consecutive Ligue 1 matches. Before this weekend, they were only outside the relegation zone on goal difference. The bad run continued in the Coupe de France, where they were knocked out by another struggling side, Clermont-Ferrand.
One of the toughest games in the league may not seem like the ideal time to start a turnaround, but Metz may feel more comfortable away from home, where they have won 10 of their 16 points. They also have some recent history on their side, having won their last two away games against Nice, although the last time they won three consecutive away games in this fixture in Ligue 1 was in the 1950s!
Players to watch: In the absence of several African stars, Nice could look to Gaëtan Laborde. He has won eight personal victories against Metz (3 draws, 1 loss), which is his joint-best record in his career. Metz’s top scorer last season, Georges Mikautadze, is back at the club on loan from Ajax. He will be looking to pick up where he left off at the start of the season, having contributed directly to three goals in as many Ligue 1 games for the Grenats (2 goals, 1 assist).
Hot stat: Nice’s Ligue 1 matches this season have averaged 1.67 goals per game, the lowest total in Ligue 1.