Reims vs PSG 18:00
Saint-Etienne vs Nice
Lorient vs Valenciennes
Sochaux vs Nancy
Bastia vs Ajaccio
Toulouse vs Evian
Brest vs Lyon 15:00
Marseille vs Troyes 18:00
Lille vs Bordeaux 20:00
PARIS – Ligue 1 surprise package Nice travel to a resurgent Saint-Etienne on Saturday, as the race for Champions League football next season gathers momentum in France.
Following a stuttering start to the campaign in which Nice collected just one victory from 10 outings, Claude Puel – in his first season at the helm – has transformed the coastal side from perennial mid-table also-rans into European hopefuls.
A sequence of 11 wins in 16 matches since November, including the scalp of domestic heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain, has propelled Nice into fourth place on 45 points, just one shy of Marseille who presently occupy the final Champions League spot.
On Saturday, they face a Saint-Etienne team unbeaten in 2013 and just one point behind them in the standings. “One only has to look at their statistics: they are unbeaten (this year),” Puel highlighted.
“They are a complete team all across the pitch, and one not depleted by injuries. They will probably put forth their best side in terms of strength and confidence,” he continued.
Saint-Etienne briefly topped the table in November before a calamitous stretch of six matches without a win sent Christophe Galtier’s side into freefall.
However, the return to form of Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has coincided with a drastic upturn in fortunes at Stade Geoffrey-Guichard, the venue for Saturday’s encounter.
Aubameyang has scored in each of his last five league appearances, including a brace in last weekend’s 3-0 triumph at Nancy, after a goalless stretch that spanned 12 matches.