A year on from guiding Lille to a surprise Ligue 1 title, Christophe Galtier is transforming Nice into a force to be reckoned with in France as they close in on Champions League football.
Through to a first French Cup final in 25 years having knocked Paris Saint-Germain out along the way, Nice again got the better of the league leaders last weekend.
In three games with PSG this season, the only goal for either team was Andy Delort’s 88th-minute winner at the Allianz Riviera in Saturday’s 1-0 victory.
Nice, who beat PSG on penalties in the last 16 of the cup, boast the league’s best defence this term, and in Galtier they possess one of Europe’s savviest minds.
“He’s too good, we know that. It’s not a secret anymore. He’s the best coach in Ligue 1. I hope he’ll stay with us for a long time,” Delort said following his heroics against PSG.
“We haven’t been beaten by Paris this season. It’s up to us to take advantage of this game. If we want to finish as high as possible, we’ll need to win as many of them as we can.”
Nice finished third in 2016-17 under Lucien Favre after leading the league until Christmas, the club’s best performance since coming second in 1975-76. Nice won four titles in the 1950s.
The hope is that with Galtier in charge and the backing of Ineos, the group chaired by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, Nice can challenge for the big prizes.
They go into Saturday’s game at Montpellier in second place and two points clear of Marseille in the race for an automatic Champions League qualifying spot.
PSG licking wounds
Paris Saint-Germain hold a 13-point lead and are on track to equal Saint-Etienne’s record of 10 French titles, but the mood in the capital is gloomy after another European nightmare.
The visit of bottom side Bordeaux on Sunday should allow Mauricio Pochettino’s team to blow off steam with winning the league now their only objective for the rest of season.
Marseille will hope to snap a three-match winless run away to Brest, while Bruno Genesio takes Rennes to his old club Lyon on Sunday.
Strasbourg host Monaco looking to reinvigorate their top-three push, with Nantes outside contenders having accrued their best points haul at this stage of a season in 18 years.
Lille must navigate a tricky test against a resurgent Saint-Etienne before attempting to overturn a 2-0 deficit against holders Chelsea in the last 16 of the Champions League next week.
One to watch: Maxence Caqueret
Another of Lyon’s homegrown players, Maxence Caqueret has emerged as an integral part of a team that appears to be hitting its stride after an inconsistent start this term.
The 22-year-old has played in every game in Peter Bosz’s first year as coach but could leave in the summer with his contract due to expire in 2023.
Club president Jean-Michel Aulas views Caqueret as a future captain but admitted he would not break the bank to keep the talented midfielder.
“It will not be done at any price, and not at whatever price. But we absolutely want him to stay,” Aulas said last month of plans to extend Caqueret’s deal.
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