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May 23, 2021 at 8pm UK
MontpellierMontpellier HSC
Kolo (33')
Coco (82'), Blas (90+1')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Laborde (30'), Delort (76')
Hilton (18'), Souquet (45+1')

Preview: Nantes vs. Montpellier - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Nantes vs. Montpellier - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Ligue 1 clash between Nantes and Montpellier HSC, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

The enthralling Ligue 1 relegation battle prepares to reach its climax on Sunday as 18th-placed Nantes take on mid-table Montpellier HSC in the final gameweek of the 2020-21 season.

Les Canaris enter the game on a four-match winning streak during an unforeseen revival, while Montpellier are playing for pride before Michel Der Zakarian bids his farewells.

Match preview

Whatever Antoine Kombouare has been feeding his Nantes players for breakfast over the past few weeks has been working wonders, as after seemingly being down and out, Les Canaris could yet secure survival on the final day of the season.

The former Paris Saint-Germain coach initially struggled to inspire a turnaround in fortunes, but his side have taken 12 points from the last 12 on offer in clashes with Strasbourg, Brest, Bordeaux and Dijon, thrashing the latter 4-0 during last week's bottom-of-the-table battle.

Reinvigorated striker Kalifa Coulibaly scored in back-to-back games to break the deadlock against Dijon, and his header preceded a Randal Kolo Muani brace as well Ludovic Blas's fine finish in a 4-0 drubbing of the relegated Hiboux during the penultimate gameweek of the season.

Les Canaris have found the back of the net 13 times during their remarkable four-game winning run, but as things stand they still occupy the relegation playoff spot and are one point adrift of safety, although not one of the teams below 13th is safe from the drop yet.

Even if results go against Nantes and they are forced to battle for their Ligue 1 status in the playoff, Les Canaris are the only team in the division to have won their last four games, and that will certainly stand them in good stead should they face Toulouse or Grenoble Foot 38 later this month.

Former Nantes boss and current Montpellier manager Michel Der Zakarian has been unable to guide La Paillade to the ultimate goal in the form of European football, but the 58-year-old will be fondly remembered as he prepares to take his seat in the dugout for the final time.

After suffering penalty shootout heartbreak in the Coupe de France semi-finals to eventual winners Paris Saint-Germain, Montpellier and Brest shook hands on a point apiece in a goalless stalemate, during which both sides struck the woodwork but could not make the net ripple.

Seventh-placed Rennes now boast an unassailable four-point lead over eighth-placed Montpellier with one game left to play, and while La Paillade could also be overtaken by Nice on the final day, they are assured of a top-half finish as they begin to plan for life without Der Zakarian.

Montpellier can look back fondly on their 11-game unbeaten league run over the winter and spring months, but far too many of those games ended in draws for Der Zakarian's side to realistically challenge for a top-six place, and they have managed just two wins from their last 11 in Ligue 1 before the long journey north.

Nantes and Montpellier played out a 1-1 stalemate at the Stade de la Mosson back in January, and the hosts have suffered just one defeat in their last eight league games against La Paillade - winning five in that impressive run - but another positive result here may not be enough to haul them out of the bottom three if their relegation rivals come up with the goods elsewhere.

Nantes Ligue 1 form:
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Montpellier HSC Ligue 1 form:
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • D

Montpellier HSC form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • D

Team News

Nantes manager Kombouare has confirmed that he has a full complement of players available for the final-day showdown, with Abdoul Kader Bamba's absence last week being a tactical decision.

After ending a goalscoring drought stretching all the way back to November 2019, Coulibaly will now aspire to net for the third game in succession alongside Kolo Muani, who has three goals and three assists from his last three appearances.

Kombouare is expected to stick with the same 11 players from their thrashing of Dijon - barring any late fitness concerns - meaning another start for Dennis Appiah at left-back over the injury-plagued Charles Traore.

Montpellier midfielder Florent Mollet saw red after 39 minutes against Brest and will miss the final game of the season alongside Teji Savanier, who picked up a late booking in the cup defeat to PSG.

Jordan Ferri's adductor injury has also forced Der Zakarian's hand in the midfield, while Jonas Omlin (thigh) has been granted permission to link up with the Switzerland camp ahead of the Euros.

Veteran defender Hilton is due to see his Montpellier contract expire next month and is therefore set for his last game for the club, but he has so far refused to mention the word retirement, even though he will turn 45 next year.

Nantes possible starting lineup:
Lafont; Corchia, Pallois, Castelletto, Appiah; Blas, Louza, Chirivella, Simon; Kolo Muani, Coulibaly

Montpellier HSC possible starting lineup:
Bertaud; Sambia, Congre, Hilton, Cozza; Le Tallec, Benchama, Chotard; Laborde, Delort, Mavididi

We say: Nantes 2-1 Montpellier HSC

Despite their combined age of 79, Hilton and Daniel Congre form a much more resilient backline than Nantes' recent opponents, and Les Canaris cannot expect to break them down freely like they did against Brest and Dijon.

However, Kombouare's side are the in-form team in the league at present and will refuse to pass up on this opportunity to clamber to safety - especially with at least one of Strasbourg or Lorient guaranteed to drop points in their crunch match - so we expect Nantes to confirm survival with victory against an indifferent Montpellier side.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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