Europe the target for Saint-Etienne, Nice

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.

Saturday
Reims         vs     PSG     18:00
Saint-Etienne     vs     Nice
Lorient         vs     Valenciennes
Sochaux         vs     Nancy
Bastia         vs     Ajaccio
Toulouse         vs     Evian
Sunday
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.

 

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