Lucien Favre’s extended honeymoon on the Cote d’Azur pits his surprise Ligue 1 leaders Nice against Lorient this weekend, while Lyon host bitter foes Saint-Etienne in the Rhone derby. Favre, who replaced Southampton-bound Claude Puel in the summer, has overseen a remarkable start to his tenure at the Allianz Riviera with Nice the league’s sole remaining unbeaten side.
“To have 17 points after seven matches is magnificent,” said Favre, following Sunday’s 1-0 victory at Nancy that kept Les Aiglons a point clear of neighbours Monaco.
However, Nice’s domestic success starkly contrasts their faltering form in the Europa League where they have lost their first two group games, the second a 5-2 defeat away to Krasnodar on Thursday.
But Favre, who welcomed back Mario Balotelli from a thigh problem in Russia, will fancy his team’s chances of prolonging their stay at the top in France with Lorient languishing in 17th despite two wins in their last three matches.
The Italy striker has netted a brace in both of his Ligue 1 appearances since his arrival from Liverpool on a free transfer and struck again with a superb long-range effort against Krasnodar before he was withdrawn due to illness.
A squabble over the number of allocated tickets for away fans has stoked tensions ahead of the first meeting between arch rivals Lyon and Saint-Etienne at Parc OL on Sunday.
Visiting supporters plan to boycott the fixture after authorities restricted Saint-Etienne to just 771 places, considerably fewer than the 2,000 seats in the away section, with Lyon denying accusations of complicity in the decision.