The Olympique Gymnastic Club have made a good start to the season. On Sunday evening, the club from the south of France secured a comfortable 3-1 away win against the team under former coach Claude Puel, AS St. Etienne. “It was a very good collective performance, above all in the first half hour,” declared a happy head coach Patrick Vieira. His team took a 2-0 lead with goals from Pierre Lees Melou and Amine Gouiri. Nice had to worry about the three points following a mistake by keeper Walter Benitez but, according to Vieira , “we were never really in danger.” Substitute Myziane Maolida rounded off the scoring in added time. Nice are currently in fourth place in Ligue 1 with four wins, one draw and two defeats. “Our points return is good,”said Vieira, “but over the long term it’s our style of play that will decide if we can compete at the top or not.” Last season, OGC had little prospect of a Champions League finish when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic but they did qualify for the Europa League as the team in sixth place and are now in the group stage of the competition for the third time.
The biggest star of the team is on the touchline. The former world-class player Vieira, who won the World Cup and European Championships with France plus the Champions League with Inter Milan, took over from Lucien Favre in 2018 when he left for Borussia Dortmund. Initially very much focused on defensive stability, he has been able to turn his side into a dominant team that can press hard during his period in charge. Vieira is not the only one to have won the Champions League. His captain has also been able to hold the trophy aloft – and he should be a familiar face to Werkself fans: The Brazilian Dante, who played in the Bundesliga for Borussia Mönchengladbach, FC Bayern as well as Wolfsburg and was a treble winner with FCB in 2013, has played for Nice since 2016 and he is an uncompromising defender, leader – and goalscorer. The central defender has already scored two goals with his head in seven league games this term. In Sunday’s 3-1 win against St. Etienne, Dante did not celebrate scoring but he was able to celebrate being 37. Even in his advanced years as a footballer, the Werkself will have to be aware of him at set-pieces.
The same also applies – but not just with dead balls – to the two attackers Amine Gouiri and Kasper Dolberg. The 20-year-old Gouiri, signed in the summer from Olympique Lyon, has made a flying start with three goals and two assists with the Denmark striker Dolberg, the marquee signing of last year, also finding the back of the net twice. However, Dolberg missed the game at St. Etienne due to an injury he picked up with Denmark. There is a question mark over his availability for the game against Bayer 04.
Nice have strengthened impressively in the summer in Vieira’s former position. In Morgan Schneiderlin, formerly a Europa League winner with Manchester United and recently under contract at Everton, the team have acquired a lot of experience in the central midfield – and in Jeff Reine-Adélaïde they also have one of the most promising talents in the country. The 22-year-old was the target of one or two Bundesliga clubs in the summer but he ended up joining Nice on loan from Olympique Lyon – a real coup for the South of France club. Reine-Adélaïde has yet to play for Nice but Vieira is expecting him to return from injury “in the middle of the week.” Will he make his debut against the Werkself? That’s debatable. What is clear is that he could form an impressive midfield pairing with Schneiderlin.
Nice have had problems this season, above all when the opposition play over the OGC pressing line and are able to run at the defence at pace. That was evident in a 3-0 defeat against Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain when Vieira’s team were unable to deal with Kylian Mbappé as well as at St. Etienne on Sunday. After the hosts brought on their pacey winger Denis Bouanga, “he causesd lots of problems,” said Vieira. It will be interesting to see if the coach sticks with the system from the game against St. Etienne-Spiel or whether he will spring a surprise with a back three – for the first time this season.
Vieira is confident ahead of his first game on the European stage as the Nice coach. “We have a team where we can be ambitious in Europe,” he said – and he may be right. The quality of the squad improved again in the summer and the mix between internationally experienced players and young talents is just right. On paper, Nice could be the toughest opponents in the group for the Werkself – a real test right at the start.
The quarter-final of the DFB-Pokal will be a special highlight for the Bayer 04 Women. The team will play at the BayArena for only the second time since 2009. Bayer04.de has collected reaction to the game to be played on Tuesday 5 March (kick-off: 18.30 CET). Director of professional teams Thomas Eichin, who is also responsible for women's football at the club, explains the background to the decision and the Women's team head coach Robert de Pauw and the captain Elisa Senß talk about the anticipation of the players ahead of the clash at the BayArena. Winter signing Borja Iglesias also shares his views. The striker was a big supporter of women's football following the kissing scandal involving the former Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales last summer. Borja also attended the last Bayer 04 Women's home game against TSG Hoffenheim.Show more
Odilon Kossounou certainly deserved this reception: At a Bayer 04 staff meeting, Fernando Carro, CEO, and head coach Xabi Alonso presented the Africa Cup of Nations winner with a special memento of his great achievement on behalf of all members of staff. The Werkself player won AFCON with Ivory Coast in the middle of February in his own country.Show more
The special edition Bayer Sports Family shirt pays homage to sport in the city of Leverkusen. Ahead of the forthcoming Bayer Sports Family matchday at the Werkself Bundesliga home game against Mainz 05 (Friday, 23 February, 20.30 CET), Bayer 04 Club members can secure this limited edition shirt now at the Bayer 04 fan shops and the online club shop.Show more
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There's big interest in Bayer 04 in Mexico, not least because of the involvement of former Werkself player Chicharito. The #Bayer04MexicoTour in summer 2022 also made a vital contribution to the popularity of the current Bundesliga leaders in the North American country. Since this week, the connection between Bayer 04 and football-mad Mexico has been enriched by one more aspect: Mexican national team coach Jaime Lozano and his coaching team have used their European tour to exchange experiences with those responsible at the works club, among other things.Show more