Claudio Ranieri, the wily Italian who masterminded Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League triumph, hopes to spring another surprise when his Nantes side visit French leaders Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.
Since his arrival at Nantes in June, Ranieri has built on the club’s strong second half of last season under then-coach Sergio Conceicao to guide them to within two points of the Champions League spots.
Nantes have picked up 23 points from a possible 30 following back-to-back defeats to start the campaign, and Ranieri is fairly relaxed ahead of the trip to the Parc des Princes.
“I’m going to take two buses,” quipped Ranieri, as he mused how to stop a PSG attack that has plundered 39 goals in 12 matches.“I know what’s going to happen Saturday night. I want to see my team calm and really determined to play well. As for the result? I know we could lose,” he said.
“I always have a precise idea (of how to play) against an opponent. The idea is always fantastic, but the reality is a bit different!”
“Paris are going to win the championship. They’ve grown into a great team which is getting better all the time,” he added.
Brazilian superstar Neymar returns to domestic duty after a tumultuous fortnight with Brazil, cutting a fragile figure in the press conference that followed a 3-1 win over Japan in Lille last Friday. Though Neymar has scored 11 goals in 12 games since his world-record move to PSG from Barcelona, recent weeks have yielded stories of rifts with his team-mates and disagreements with coach Unai Emery.
Brazil coach Tite spoke out in Neymar’s defence last week as the striker wiped away tears, while Emery insisted there were no issues between himself and the player.
“None of these rumours are important. What counts are the discussions I have with him. We’re very happy with him, he will triumph here,” said Emery, whose side lead defending champions Monaco by four points. “It’s the same for all the players who change clubs, coaches, team-mates and cities. The adaptation process takes time,” added the Spaniard.
“His team-mates, the staff and the club must do everything to help this process. He’s getting better and better. It’s what happens on the pitch that’s most important. When the team gets results, things are good and everyone feels better.”
Monaco face Amiens on Friday at the reopened Stade de la Licorne ahead of a crucial week that could spell the end of their Champions League campaign and heavily impact on their Ligue 1 title defence, with PSG heading to the principality next Sunday.
Promoted Amiens were cleared to return to their home ground for the first time since a barrier collapse during the September 30 clash with Lille injured 29 people.
The match with northern rivals Lille originally called off after just 16 minutes will be replayed on November 20.
Nabil Fekir and in-form Lyon will chase a fifth straight league win away to Nice, while Marseille visit Bordeaux in the club’s first match since terminating the contract of Patrice Evra.
The former Manchester United star and France international left Marseille by mutual consent on November 10 after his infamous karate kick on one of Marseille’s own fans.
Saint-Etienne, who were thrashed 5-0 at home by fierce rivals Lyon last time out, are without a coach going into Friday’s game with struggling Lille following the resignation of Oscar Garcia who stepped down on Wednesday after just five months at the helm.