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On 19th of September 1973, FC Barcelona came away from Le Ray stadium, in Nice, well beaten 3-0 by the home side, OGC Nice. two weeks later, on 3rd of October, Barça were unable to turn the result around at the Camp Nou and, although they defeated the French team 2-0, were eliminated from the Fairs Cup, the current Europa League , in the last 32 stage.
40 years later, Barça are coming back to the French Riviera to take on Nice, who occupy position 138 in the UEFA 2014/15 rankings. The friendly nature of the game will allow each team to prepare for the start of their respective leagues, which begin in August. Nice kick-off their season before Barça, and on August 9th they’ll play the first game in the French Ligue 1, at home against Toulouse at the Allianz Riviera, a stadium opened in 2013
Aiming to stay in the top tier
Claude Puel's players are aiming to stay in the top tier of French football, and are hoping that this new season won’t be as tough as the last one. The power of other clubs in France, the youthful team they have, and the constant injuries they suffered during the 2013/14 season, meant that Nice accumulated 12 wins, 6 draws, 20 defeats, 30 goals scored, and 44 goals conceded. These figures put them, at the end of the season, in seventeenth place in the table, with 42 points from 38 games, and only 2 points above relegation
That was after Nice had ended one of the best seasons of recent times the year before. In the 2012/13 season Nice became the revelation of French football, and came fourth in Ligue 1, with 64 points, only 3 behind Olympique Lyon, in third place. Their position meant that Nice took part, once again, in the last 32 of the Europa League. They were, however, knocked out early on by Apollon from Cypruse, 2-1 over the two legs
A project in the shadow of French football
Last season has already been forgotten by club president, Jean-Pierre Rivere. The French top man, along with the rest of the directors, is aware of the difficulties that Nice face if they want to be up there with the leaders of the League, with teams like Monaco, their great rival due to the proximity of the two cities on the French Riviera, or PSG, as well as the usual suspects Olympique Lyon, Olympique Marseilles o Lille, amongst others.
Despite everything, Rivere is demanding patience and believes the team has grown a lot in the last 4 or 5 years. Currently, Nice has lots of very young players who form the basis of the longer term project. The fact that many of their footballers are receiving offers from bigger clubs is a testament to the effort and work of the team.
However, the club has lost its great Colombian goalkeeper, David Ospina, one of the fans' idols, who, after 5 years at Nice, has signed for Arsenal. Nice must look for a new goalkeeper, as they are also without Joris Delle, due to a long term injury. The good news for the Nice fans is that some of the key players are staying. These include their top scorer, the Argentine Darío Cvitanich, as well as the young winger, Eric Beautheac, and midfielders Didier Digard, Jeremy Pied and Mathieu Bodmer. They have also signed Julien Vercauteren and the Swedish international, Niklas Hult
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