Paris (AFP) – Thierry Henry renews acquaintances with former France and Arsenal team-mate Patrick Vieira on Wednesday when Monaco face Nice as part of a rearranged batch of midweek fixtures in Ligue 1.
The coaching showdown between two of France’s 1998 World Cup winners was first scheduled for December 7, but the game was postponed amid security concerns over the ongoing “yellow vest” protests in France over rising living costs.
Since taking over at the Stade Louis II, Henry has won just two of 10 league matches as Monaco find themselves second from bottom and four points from safety midway through the season.
The 2017 French champions have sought to address their plight with a number of January recruits — Cesc Fabregas, Naldo and Fode Ballo-Toure all started Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Marseille.
“Fabregas got better as the minutes ticked by,” said Henry of the Spaniard’s promising debut at the weekend.
“He managed to take the match in his grasp and read between the lines. We could have finished certain moves off better, but we’re on the right track.”
“We had to react and we did that. The draw will be a good result if there are wins after it,” he added. “Now we need to string things together and continue to pick up points.”
Experienced midfielder William Vainqueur has also joined on loan from Antalyaspor, however, none of Monaco’s new signings are eligible to feature against Nice as the game was originally due to be played before the reopening of the transfer window.
Striker Radamel Falcao is highly doubtful due to illness, although France international Djibril Sidibe is set to return after two months out with injury.
Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic is back in training as well, having made just two appearances for the club this term because of a thigh problem.
“As soon as he’s operational he will be back in the group for sure,” said Henry. “I’m counting on him a lot.”
– ‘It’s a family’ at Nice –
Cote d’Azur rivals Nice are within four points of the Champions League spots after a stuttering start to life under Vieira, whose name was chanted by home fans during Saturday’s 1-0 win over Bordeaux.
“It’s important and it really touches me. When we say ‘the club’, that includes everybody, the supporters included, it’s a family,” said Vieira, whose side are level with sixth-placed Strasbourg after a run of just one defeat in nine outings.
“It’s better to be here than at the bottom. But then the league is very tight, a run of two to three matches in either way could change the table a lot,” he added.
Runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who are 13 points clear of Lille with two games in hand, are at a mid-season training camp in Doha and will make up their match at home to Montpellier on February 20.
Marseille’s run of eight games without a win in all competitions — including a shock French Cup loss to fourth-tier Andrezieux — prompted a frosty reception at the Velodrome for the draw with Monaco.
Supporters held up a banner that read “owners, coach, players… all guilty”, with Marseille languishing in ninth and eliminated from all three cup competitions.
“The hostile reaction from the crowd didn’t help, obviously,” said coach Rudi Garcia. “What counts is how the players responded out on the pitch, the solidarity that they showed even after the match. The players going to see the fans as a group was a nice image.”
Marseille visit Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, while Lyon will look to stay ahead of their bitter rivals ahead of Sunday’s Rhone derby as they travel to Toulouse.
Fixtures (all times 1800 GMT unless stated)
Angers v Bordeaux
Monaco v Nice, Guingamp v Rennes, Toulouse v Lyon, Nimes v Nantes, Saint-Etienne v Marseille
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