Paris Saint-Germain players cheer their supporters after the French L1 football match between Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain on January 14, 2017 at the Roazhon park stadium in Rennes, western France. / AFP PHOTO / DAMIEN MEYER
Sergio Conceicao has inspired a revival at former French giants Nantes but will face the toughest test of his fledgling tenure on Saturday when champions Paris Saint-Germain visit the Stade de la Beaujoire.
Nantes, who claimed the last of their eight Ligue 1 titles in 2001, have won four games in a row without conceding a goal since former Portugal international Conceicao replaced Rene Girard at the helm last month.
His arrival has coincided with Nantes’ rise from 19th to 11th in the table, but the Canaries have lost 12 in a row to PSG with their last victory over the capital club coming in 2004.
“We don’t want such a good run to end even if the mountain that is PSG stands above us this Saturday,” midfielder Guillaume Gillet told l’Equipe, lavishing praise on the work done by Conceicao.
“The coach is really meticulous. He knows exactly what he’s doing and what he wants. He’s a leader of men, he passes on his aggression, which is good. He’s like he was as a player.”
Julian Draxler’s goal on his league debut in a 1-0 win at Rennes left PSG three points behind league leaders Monaco and injury-ravaged Nice.
Unai Emery’s side face a busy upcoming month with the club competing on four fronts and set to host Monaco next weekend while coming up against Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Mario Balotelli returns for Nice after serving a two-match ban, but Lucien Favre is without several key players for Friday’s trip to Bastia.
“That’s how it is. Complaining won’t do anything,” said Favre, whose team limped to 0-0 draw against bottom side Metz last weekend.
“A rash of injuries like the one affecting us is quite rare. We’ll have to look at the reasons behind it,” he added, with goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale, captain Paul Baysse and playmaker Younes Belhanda among those sidelined.
– Depay, Payet deals imminent? –
Monaco replaced Nice at the top on goal difference after their 4-1 victory at the Velodrome put an abrupt end to Marseille’s four-game winning run.
Leonardo Jardim’s free-scoring side will target a fifth win in six at home to 19th-placed Lorient on Sunday to try and consolidate their position at the summit.
Lyon are closing in on the signature of Dutch international Memphis Depay from Manchester United, with reports indicating he will sign a four-and-a-half year deal with OL.
“He is powerful, strong, capable of making goals and scoring. He takes free-kicks well, he’s a complete player with considerable room for improvement,” said Lyon boss Bruno Genesio of his expected new arrival.
Lyon slid to a 3-2 defeat at Caen in their first league game of 2017 and host Marseille, another side looking to strengthen in the January transfer window, at Parc OL.
Marseille have snapped up young French midfielder Morgan Sanson from Montpellier and are also bidding to re-sign their former midfield schemer Dimitri Payet from West Ham.
Hammers boss Slaven Bilic left the door ajar for a possible reunion but called on Marseille to meet the Premier League club’s asking price for the unsettled France international.
“The ball is in Marseille’s court. They are the ones who expressed interest. Now they should act,” said Bilic. “Like everybody he has his price.”
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Bastia v Nice (1945)
Nantes v Paris Saint-Germain (1600), Bordeaux v Toulouse, Caen v Nancy, Dijon v Lille, Guingamp v Rennes, Metz v Montpellier (all 1900)
Monaco v Lorient (1400), Saint-Etienne v Angers (1600), Lyon v Marseille (2000)