If there is one positive thing to remember from the very forgettable second term of Lucien Favre on the bench of OGC Nice, it is certainly this one. By finishing in first place in his group in the Europa League Conference, his team directly booked their ticket for the round of 16 of the event, thus avoiding the rat race that is the play-offs. Overcoming this obstacle would no doubt not have been easy. On the floor above, in the Europa League, Monaco, Rennes and Nantes broke their teeth there. Due to this carnage (to which should be added PSG’s new premature exit from the road), the course of French clubs on the European scene in 2022-2023 is, for the moment, hardly brilliant. Even if they weren’t the most anticipated when the continental competitions started, we are now counting a lot on the Azureans to give a little shine to this frankly gloomy hexagonal table. A legitimate expectation, as the Gym can approach the final table of C4 with appetite. And ambition.
Transformed team and irresistible dynamics
First of all because these people from Nice no longer have much to do with those who, just two months ago, squatted on the soft underbelly of the Ligue 1 classification and had just been ejected from the Coupe de France by Le Puy (1-0). Since then, Favre has packed his bags and his successor, Didier Digard, has transformed his band of Aiglons, which until then were too tender, into fearsome and ruthless birds of prey. The track record of the inexperienced 36-year-old technician speaks for himself: 21 points in 9 games (as many as his predecessor after 17 games), 6 victories, some of which are very convincing, at Lens (0-1), Marseille (1- 3) or Monaco (0-3) and, above all, still not the slightest defeat on the clock. These excellent results are accompanied by convincing individual performances, like Kasper Schmeichel, finally worthy of his international status, the almost impassable Dante-Todibo hinge, Aaron Ramsey, with regained influence, and Khéphren Thuram , often imperial. In front, Gaëtan Laborde is full of confidence, while Terem Moffi, the star rookie of the winter, is starting to make his mark. A fickle team as possible in the first part of the season, Nice (7e) has therefore become a well-oiled mechanism, which almost no one resists in France. It now remains to extend this momentum to the European level.
Will Jordan Lotomba’s partners be able to? First elements of response expected this Thursday, at the end of the round of 16 first leg that the Riviera team will play in Chisinau, against Sheriff Tiraspol. An adversary who is certainly experienced in continental games and capable of brilliant blows, attests to his resounding victory at the Bernabéu in September 2021 (1-2), but who should nevertheless not scare the Aiglons, armed to cross this round… and look a little further. Indeed, with the exception of Lazio – which was however surprised at home by Alkmaar on Tuesday (1-2) -, it is clear that no club still involved in the Europa League Conference really stands out. . West Ham must above all think of ensuring their maintenance in the Premier League, while Villarreal blows hot and cold in La Liga. Basel, Fiorentina or La Gantoise should not scare the people of Nice either who, by being ambitious, can afford a great epic. “ These are special adventures, recognizes Didier Digard. If we can pass rounds, we will certainly not deprive ourselves. It will give a lot of energy to the group and it will create bonds that will remain forever. » While giving a smile to French football, which really needs it.