Montpellier-Nice preview: Farioli looking to extend Europe’s longest unbeaten run

Nice are not only on top thanks to their latest win, they are also on the longest unbeaten run of any club in Europe’s top five divisions (14). It is also Nice’s longest unbeaten run since 1967. Not only that, Les Aiglons have also conceded just four goals in Ligue 1 Uber Eats this season, no team in Europe’s top five divisions has bettered or equaled that record.

Kick-off: Friday, 21:00


Having kept eight clean sheets in their first 11 matches and have conceded just four goals, breaking down Nice’s defense is a daunting task for any team. Francesco Farioli is central to the Riviera club’s defensive success, building on the defensive foundations laid by the managers that preceded him.

“When we arrived, we found a team that was ready in the defensive domain. I know that the will not to concede is really in their DNA. But if we’re conceding so few goals, it is because of the work that we’re carrying out,” said Farioli ahead of the match. However, there are also individual success stories within this run, 
Despite celebrating his 40th birthday in October, Dante is currently displaying some of his best form. His leadership qualities are integral to this youthful side, but to reduce his role to simply being a leader would be unfair on Dante, who is, on current form, one of the top center-backs in the league. Jean-Clair Todibo, meanwhile, is not only asserting himself at club level but at the international level too. Having earned his first cap with Les Bleus earlier this season, he is going from strength to strength. 

However, there will be one major absence on Friday – Youssouf Ndayishmiye. The Burundi international has become so integral at Nice since his arrival last January, however, he will miss the encounter against Montpellier after being sent off against Rennes. 

“From the first minute after the win against Rennes, we started to think about how to manage this situation. Youssouf has thus far played every minute and his absence is a blow for us,” admitted Farioli. 

Seeing Khéphren Thuram, who is often deployed in a box-to-box role, utilized as a defensive midfielder, is a definite option. Either way, Farioli will have to find a new balance to his team and Ndayishimiye’s suspension is a fresh test for Farioli and Nice.

Compatriots’ contrasting form

Offensively, Nice are improving. However, Terem Moffi is yet to rediscover his goalscoring touch and hasn’t found the back of the net since scoring a brace against PSG in September. His dip is in stark contrast to the form of compatriot Akor Adams, who has scored seven goals in Ligue 1 Uber Eats since his arrival at Montpellier this summer. Only Kylian Mbappé has scored more. 

Despite a 3-0 defeat against PSG at the Parc des Princes, Montpellier’s performance garnered high praise from Luis Enrique. “They are a team that I liked a lot. They have some quality players,” said the Spaniard in his post-match press conference. 

Michel Der Zakarian will be hoping that his side’s best qualities will be on show when Nice visit the Stade de la Mosson on Friday night as they look to knock Les Aiglons off their perch. 

Possible teams

Montpellier: Lecomte; Sylla, Estève, Kouyaté, Sacko; Ferri, Chotard; Fayad, Savanier, Al-Tamaari; Adams

Nice: Bulka; Bard, Dante, Todibo, Lotomba; Boudaoui, Thuram, Sanson; Boga, Moffi, Laborde

Montpellier-Nice preview

Enjoying its longest unbeaten run in more than 50 years, French league leader Nice looks like an invulnerable fortress fiercely defended by veteran center-back Dante, who at 40 is as rock-solid as ever.

The only team still unbeaten in France this season, Nice has managed eight clean sheets in 11 matches and conceded just four goals.

At the heart of the defensive padlock set up by coach Francesco Farioli, former Brazil international Dante has been a crucial element.

Praised for his irreproachable work ethics and sober lifestyle, the Nice captain is a leader by example, and an example of longevity.

He played 4,440 minutes in all competitions last season and has not missed a single minute of his club’s new league campaign, contributing to make the Riviera side the best defense in Europe’s top five leagues.

“Dante is a player with enormous intelligence,” Farioli told the French league’s website. “He knows when to back off and when to go for it. He knows how to defend in tight spaces and in wide areas. He can attack as well as defend.”

Nicknamed the “CommanDante,” he joined Nice seven years ago, having won the Champions League and four Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich.

His French stint was almost cut short in November 2020 when he suffered an ACL tear in his left knee that many believed would bring his career to an end, but he returned the next season and helped the team finish with the best defensive record.

Dante, who is six years younger than Farioli, has not slowed down a bit since he signed a one-year extension last season. His statistics ahead of Friday’s match against Montpellier are impressive, with 982 passes, 10 interceptions, and 21 tackles completed, as well as 65% of duels won.

Montpellier-Nice preview

“He’s 40 years old, he’s a top performer, he looks my age,” said France international Jean-Clair Todibo, Dante’s center-back partner at Nice. “I have a lot of respect for Dante, and I think we all do. He’s playing matches at a very, very high level, it’s crazy what he’s offering, I don’t think people realize. He trains every day, he does not spare himself, and he puts in a great game every time.”

Nice has a one-point lead over defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, which travels to Reims on Saturday looking to bounce back following a 2-1 loss against AC Milan in the Champions League. In other matches, third-place Monaco travels to Le Havre and Marseille plays at Lens.

At Montpellier, Nice will need to find a way to compensate for the absence of Youssouf Ndayishmiye. The Burundi midfielder has been a key player, bringing in a lot of defensive effort alongside Dante and Todibo, but he was sent off last weekend and is suspended.

“We obviously thought about what we could do,” Farioli said. “The absence of Youssouf, who had thus far played every minute, is a blow for us. But it will also be a chance for other players to express themselves. We still have to think about it and find the best balance.”

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