Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's Ligue 1 encounter between Nice
and Marseille. There is plenty to play for for both sides, so we should have an interesting and exciting match ahead of us.
We'll start by looking at our hosts tonight, and it has been a solid if unspectacular start for Nice. They come into the match sixth in the table with 14 points from their nine matches so far this season.
Those nine matches have included three defeats, four wins and two draws, which points at a level of inconsistency that manager Claude Puel
will be eager to get rid of. Their last three matches have not yielded much joy, having picked up just three points from a possible nine and scored just one goal in that time.
Scoring goals hasn't generally been their main problem this season, however, instead they have struggled to keep them out at the other end. Their goal difference is just +1, which is the joint worst in the top nine, while their 10 goals conceded is the largest number out of any of the top six.
A win for Nice today would see them climb to at least fifth in the table, leap-frogging Nantes in the process. Theoretically, they could even end the night as high as third, although it would take a freak result to see them move higher than both Marseille and Lille due to the gap in goal difference.
The hosts will be hoping that the international break just gone will have given their players time to regroup and rediscover a bit of form following two defeats in the three games immediately prior to the break. Despite that iffy form, though, Nice have created something of a fortress at the Allianz Riviera. They have not lost here in their last eight competitive home matches, a run that stretches back to March this year. As always seems to be the case in football, a small sub-plot is that Marseille were the team who beat them that day.
As for the visitors, their season summary wouldn't look too different to Nice's at the current stage. It has been a solid start by them as well, but perhaps not quite as good as they would have hoped for. They currently sit fourth in the table having finished a fairly distance second to PSG last season.
Marseille do have the added bonus/distraction of the Champions League, and they were drawn in what is probably the toughest group. Their fixture list just before the international break was not kind as they took on Dortmund and then PSG, losing both.
However, they will be looking to get back on track this evening, and an away win in a tricky match like this would be a very good result for them. They have 17 points from their nine games so far this season and could move into third place if they add another three to that total tonight.
That would leave them just one point behind Monaco and PSG, and manager Elie Baup
would most probably take that scenario if you offered it to him at the end of the season. Marseille will always have ambitions to win the title, but it is simply too hard to compete with the mega-bucks of the top two, so third is perhaps the best that they can hope for this season.
The good news for the visitors is that their away form in the league is very impressive. They have not lost any of their last five matches away from home, a record that can also be stretched to one defeat in the last 10 away matches.
NICE STARTING XI: Ospina; Kolodziejczak, Pejcinovic, Bodmer, Puel; Pied, Digard, Mendy, Traore; Bruls; Cvitanich
NICE SUBS: Gomis, Abriel, Eysseric, Bosetti, Genevois, Benrahma, Hassen
MARSEILLE STARTING XI: Mandanda; Morel, Lucas Mendes, N'Koulou, Fanni; Ayew, Imbula, Romao, Thauvin; Valbuena; Gignac
MARSEILLE SUBS: Cheyrou, J Ayew, Lemina, Samba, Diawara, Mendy, Khelifa
PREDICTION: We're nearing kickoff in Nice, which means that it is time for a match prediction! This should be a pretty even game, with Nice enjoying home advantage and Marseille missing joint-top scorer Dimitri Payet through suspension. I am going to go for a 1-1 draw.
Nice's main threat tonight will be Argentine forward Dario Cvitanich
, who has already found the net five times this season. He was the second highest scorer in the league last season, behind only Zlatan Ibrahimovic. For Marseille, Andre-Pierre Gignac
will be the main focal point, and Valbuena will be looking to add the three assists he already has to his name this season.
Florian Thauvin is one to keep an eye on for the visitors as well. He was excellent for France during the Under-20 World Cup and looks to have a really bright future ahead of him. He will be looking to flourish again in a high-charged atmosphere tonight.
KICKOFF: We're underway at the Allianz Riviera. Nice kick us off and immediately look to get forward at pace, but some smart defending ensures that their first attack results in just a goal kick.
This has been a bright start from the hosts, who look to have a good tempo about them in the opening stages. They are pressing high up the pitch and putting the Marseille defence under heavy pressure whenever they have the ball.
Half chance for Marseille after some excellent work by Gignac. He makes his way down the right flank before squeezing a really good cross towards the back post with very little room to work with. Valbuena is steaming in at the far post, but he just pulls out of the aerial challenge a little and the ball bobbles through to the keeper. Had he been a little braver there, that would have been a very good chance.
CLOSE! Marseille are causing a few problems with crosses into the box at the moment. The latest sees two attackers on one defender, and Ayew comes close with his header. He was backtracking to make contact with it and did well to direct it towards goal, but his effort loops over the bar.
MARSEILLE SUB: This is an early blow for the visitors. Lucas Mendes appeared to pull something a couple of minutes ago and, after trying to continue, it is obvious that something isn't quite right. He trudges off the field rather despondently to be replaced by Souleymane Diawara.
CHANCE! My word, where on earth did the Marseille defence go there?! From a deep free kick, Pejcinovic is left completely free to stroll into the box and he has yards of space and plenty of time to decide what he wants to do. He should probably go for goal but instead tries to nod it across to Cvitanich, but the header is hacked away by the defence. What a chance that was, and it was also some of the worst marking that I have seen in quite some time.
That was by far the best chance of the match so far, and it seems to have given Nice more confidence. They are on top right now, but it has been a fairly evening opening to this match.
Romao goes for a speculative effort from range, but it flies a long way wide of the mark. He certainly caught it well enough, but his accuracy was well off.
SAVE! Superb save from Ospina from an even more impressive Thauvin effort. A cross came in from the left and it was slightly behind the youngster, but he showed tremendous technique to volley it towards the bottom corner. It look destined to be the opening goal, but Ospina got down really well to make a one-handed save, tipping it behind for a corner.
This is a really good, evenly-matched game at the moment. Both sides have had their spells in control in the opening 17 minutes, and they have both looked like scoring. I would be surprised if this one was to stay 0-0.
Not much to speak of in terms of chances in the last few minutes. It is also still goalless in the other Ligue 1 match going on tonight as Reims take on Toulouse. I will be keeping you updated with major events as and when they happen from that match.
Things open up for Thauvin in midfield and he goes for goal from range, only to drag his shot wide. It is good to see a youngster with such confidence, but a more experienced player would have passed there.
WHAT A SAVE! Mandanda makes a fabulous save to deny Traore, even if the referee didn't see it. The Nice man ghosts into the box unnoticed with a late run and produces a fine volley towards the roof of the net that Mandanda has to react very quickly to in order to tip it over. The referee points for a goal kick, much to Traore's dismay.
A long ball over the top gives Ayew a slight reason for optimism as he races on to it inside the box. Pejcinovic comes across and flattens him with a clean tackle, and the referee correctly waves away the protests for a penalty. Ayew stays down and eventually the game has to stop as it looks like a head injury.
The fans are playing their part in what is an exciting match, despite the scoreline still remaining goalless at the moment. Around two hours separates these two sides but it is considered something of a local rivalry in France, so there was never going to be any lack of passion in the stands or on the field.
Valbuena's first thought always seems to be to find Gignac. On this latest occasions he brings the ball under control instantly and lifts a clever pass over the defence with his next touch. It is too heavy, skimming away from his striker and into the arms of the keeper, but it is clear that they have a decent understanding.
OFF THE BAR! Oh the hosts come within inches of breaking the deadlock! Kolodziejczak makes his way down the left and pulls a cross back to Cvitanich, who takes a touch before unselfishly moving it on to Pied. The winger unleashes a powerful volley towards goal, but Mandanda makes another magnificent fingertip save to divert it onto the bar, which is still shaking. Superb play all round.
This match is getting nice and open now. Marseille have a chance as they exploit a three-on-three situation well. The cross finds its way to Ayew following a good run by Gignac, but his right foot just gives way while he is hitting it and his effort deflects out for a corner.
CHANCE! Big chance for Diawara! A corner is flicked on at the near post and Diawara has anticipated that, running into a dangerous area. However, he completely scuffs his shot when it should be a fairly simple finish, even for a central defender, allowing Nice to hack the ball clear.
GOAL! Nice 1-0 Marseille (Dario Cvitanich)
Nice have the opener! It is fine play from Traore, who battles for the ball in midfield and finds the defence out of position when he eventually does win it back. That leaves him with a fairly simple through ball to Cvitanich, who rounds the keeper and rolls it into the empty net from a tight angle. He was never going to miss there!
That is Cvitanich's sixth goal of the season already this season. The only Argentinian who has scored more goals in Europe since August of last year is Lionel Messi - could he be in line for a place in the national side?
There will be three minutes of added time at the end of this half.
YELLOW CARD! The first card of the day is flashed to Valbuena, as much for the dissent as the challenge. The little playmaker just stood his ground in an aerial battle and he does have a right to feel aggrieved.
OFF THE LINE! Marseille almost equalise right on the stroke of half time. Nice had a free kick but gave the ball away carelessly, allowing the visitors to break forward and win a corner. Ospina came to collect the delivery at the back post but missed it, allowing the ball to be headed back into the mixer and bundled towards goal before being hacked off the line.
HALF TIME: Nice 1-0 Marseille
Well, what an exciting half of football that was. We were expecting an entertaining match between two sides who finished in the top four last season, and we certainly have not been disappointed. Both teams played that opening 45 minutes with an attacking mindset and it made for good viewing. Nice will be the happier side at the break, however, having taken a 1-0 lead into the halfway stage.
Dario Cvitanich, inevitably, got the goal that separates the two sides at the moment, but he owes a lot of thanks to Traore. It was the Nice midfielder who won the ball back in midfield and put the chance on a plate for Cvitanich, who had a simple finish for a man in his form. Still, he did finish it well, rounding the keeper before rolling the ball home.
There have been plenty of other chances at both ends, however. Valbuena had a decent sight of goal early on but lacked a vital piece of bravery in an aerial battle, while Pejcinovic opted to pass when he should have shot moments later. Mandanda has made a couple of superb saves to deny Pied and Traore, while Ospina has made a fine stop of his own to keep out Thauvin's volley.
The game has been played at a tremendous pace from start to finish, and both sides will probably be hearing similar messages at the break. They both have a chance of winning this match and, if the second half is anything like the first, there are sure to be more goals.
An open second half would probably favour Marseille now given that they are the team who need a goal, but I don't expect Nice to shut up shop just yet. They will be as confident of getting a second as Marseille will be of finding an equaliser, and we should have another good 45 minutes of football ahead of us.
As things stand, Nice will be moving up to fifth in the table, level on points with Marseille. Elie Baup
will no doubt be reminding his visiting Marseille side that a win would bring them within one point of Monaco and PSG, while a win could see them trail the top two by seven points at the end of the week.
KICKOFF: Marseille get us back underway at the Allianz Riviera. Can they find an equaliser in the next 45 minutes or will Nice hold out?
SAVE! Bright start to the half from the visitors as Imbula advances on goal before digging out a decent effort that Ospina has to turn around his near post. That might just have been sneaking in, so that was an important stop.
Alert play from Mandanda as a deflected cross almost falls at the feet of Pied, who reacted quicker than the two defenders around him. He couldn't get there before the Marseille keeper, however, as he throws himself at Pied's feet to gather the ball.
Thauvin makes a good run down the right flank but his low cross is well blocked by Pejcinovic. It has been a good start to the half from Marseille, who look eager to restore parity as soon as possible here.
Nice have not gone too defensive by any means, but they are taken noticeably fewer risks at the moment. They aren't committing as many men forward and, as a result, are struggling to threaten Marseille as much as they did in the first half.
Valbuena is becoming more and more involved in this match now, which can only be a good thing for Marseille. He battles hard to win the ball off Bruls, but the Nice man doesn't give up on it and gets back to make a fine challenge on the edge of the box. Things were just beginning to open up for Valbuena there, so it was an important tackle.
SAVE! Lovely feet from Thauvin inside the area as he waltzes into the box before dancing past his man on the inside and poking an effort towards the bottom corner. Ospina is there again, however, getting down well to turn it behind for a corner.
Just a little bit of handbags from Cvitanich as he climbs all over Romao, who kicks out at the striker. It wasn't a particularly nasty kick, but Cvitanich reacted angrily before keeping hold of the ball for a long time as Marseille players looked to get it back and restart the match. The referee gives them both a talking to without producing a card.
NICE SUB: First change of the day for the hosts as Valentin Eysseric replaces Pied, who had that shot that hit the bar in the first half. Fresh legs for the hosts as they look to make the most of what are increasingly rare dangerous attacks.
Superb cross from Eysseric as he fizzes a low ball right across the face of goal. No-one can get a touch, however, when the slightest of contacts will have resulted in a goal.
MARSEILLE SUB: Marseille's first tactical change, and second sub overall, comes as Thauvin, who had started to get into the game a little more recently, is replaced by Saber Khelifa.
UPDATE: It is now 1-1 in the other Ligue 1 match going on tonight. Reims have equalised through Oniangue after Trejo had given Toulouse a first-half lead.
OFF THE POST! Marseille come within inches of levelling the sides! It is great play from Valbuena as he drops a shoulder to beat a defender before slipping a fine through ball to Ayew in the same movement. Ayew is a little slow off the mark but he holds off a defender and manages to hook a shot past the keeper and off the outside of the post.
Marseille have certainly looked most like scoring in this second half so far. If they are to come away from this match with anything, however, they will have to become the first team to score past Nice in their brand new stadium. It is some feat that they have made it this far without conceding at home, can Nice extend that impressive record tonight?
MARSEILLE SUB: The third and final Marseille sub of the day sees Morel make way for Benjamin Mendy.
The home fans are becoming a bit agitated now as they sense Marseille piling more pressure on. Their mood is done no favours by a couple of contentious decisions that the ref gives the way of Marseille.
YELLOW CARD! Mendy is shown a yellow card, and he has no complaints. He jumped in to a late challenge on Khelifa, who had skipped past him, and tripped the Marseille man cynically. Certainly a yellow, but that was probably a clever foul from Mendy.
Pejcinovic is harshly penalised for a foul in a 50/50 challenge when both players got something of the ball. Marseille now have a free kick in a good position.
CHANCE! It is a superb delivery from Valbuena, who finds Ayew's run at the back post with an inch-perfect cross. Ayew lets the ball fly across his body before trying a side-footed volley, but his effort goes wide of the near post. It wasn't an easy chance, but Ayew perhaps should have done better.
GREAT SAVE! That really should have been 1-1! It is lovely play from the visitors as Valbuena floats a pass out to the right. Fanni collects it and sends a fine cross into Gignac, who flicks his header on and, to be honest, he can't do much more with it. Ospina makes a very good reaction stop to tip it over, however, denying Marseille a very well-worked goal. They may not get a better chance than that.
NICE SUB: This looks like a statement of defensive intent from the hosts as they withdraw Cvitanich for the final 10 minutes, replacing him with Mohamed Said Benrahma.
To be honest, Marseille have deserved an equaliser for their second half display. Nice probably just about edged the first 45 minutes, although Marseille were by no means dominated, but the visitors are the only side who have really looked like scoring since the break.
YELLOW CARD! Ayew becomes the latest player to enter the referee's notebook, being shown a yellow card for a sliding tackle on Eysseric. He definitely didn't get the ball, but he didn't get much of the man either so he can feel hard done by there.
SAVE! Mendy gets on the end of a cross and his header almost squirms into the corner in fortuitous fashion. It deflects off Gignac, who has run right in front of his teammate, causing Ospina to scramble across and tip it out for a corner with Ayew in close attendance. It was probably going wide, but Ospina did the right thing by making sure.
Imbula is the latest to try his luck for the visitors, finding a bit of space from range to shoot, only to see his effort deflected wide for another corner, Marseille's 14th of the night. Again, however, it comes to nothing.
This could be a worry for Nice as Ospina has gone down clutching his ankle. He has arguably been the man of the match tonight, so losing him, even at this late stage, would be a blow.
It looks like he will be fine to continue. Soon after getting to his feet he rushes out to punch a corner to safety.
There will be five minutes of added time at the end of this match.
Nice almost kill the game off with a swift counter attack, but some desperate defending eventually denies Traore's shot from close range. Benrahma had made the initial run into the box but his effort was blocked before Traore's suffered a similar fate.
YELLOW CARD! Puel goes into the book for a foul on Ayew. It wasn't too nasty, but his foot was high and late, so it was a deserved card. Some handbags follow as Valbuena and Diawara try to get the ball off Pejcinovic, but the ref doesn't show any more cards.
CHANCE! Big chance for Ayew to nick a point with one of the last attacks of the night! He peels off his marker to get on the end of a deep cross at the back post. His header is lofted back towards the opposite corner, but Ospina changes direction quickly and leaps across to make another good save, holding on to the ball as well.
FULL TIME: Nice 1-0 Marseille
There we have it! It is a fine win for Nice, who move into fifth place now level on points with both third and fourth. Cvitanich's goal was all that separated the side's in the end, but plenty of credit also has to go to Davis Ospina, who made a string of fine saves in the second half to maintain his side's lead. His opposite number Mandanda also made a couple of brilliant stops in the first half, but they weren't enough for his side as Marseille miss the chance to go third.
Right, that's all we have time for tonight! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for what was an absorbing 90 minutes of Ligue 1 football as Nice hold out for a 1-0 win over Marseille, meaning that they have still not conceded a goal at the Allianz Riviera. We have heaps more live football for you tomorrow as domestic action returns, while you can also follow the last 10 minutes or so of the big Serie A clash between Roma and Napoli with us here
. From me, though, it is goodbye!