Schalke - Nice
November 22, 2016
Now or never
There's no road map and no room for second guesses. There is only a match to be played and hopes to keep alive. On Thursday, Les Aiglons will face Schalke 04 at the Veltins-Arena (kick-off at 19:00) with no option but to win.
There are 900 kilometres to travel and one single ambition to fulfill: get back on track in Europa League Group I to have a hope of making it through to the next round. After three defeats and a win on the European stage this campaign, the lads from the Côte d'Azur are coming up against one of the competition's leading lights. A side whose voracious appetite for victory has already qualified them for the last 16 with four wins from four matches. So Germany will welcome the Niçois 43 years after the painful voyage to Cologne that saw the Rouge et Noir of Leif Eriksson, Charly Loubet and Jean Snella lose out 4-0. In the cold and grey, in front of 60,000 spectators, the Favre generation will either keep their hopes alive or crash out of the competition - two diametrically opposed possibilities that make this a sudden-death encounter for Le Gym. A crunch clash, even though Nice's destiny doesn't lie entirely in their own hands - it will also depend on the clash between Krasnodar and Salzburg, as long as the Aiglons take all three points in the Ruhr valley.
"Ready to fight"
"Schalke is our last chance," warned Alassane Plea. "We need a win in order to hope for anything whatsoever. If we don't win, the Europa League stops there for us. Same thing if we get a draw." Having made his weighty declaration, the striker who got on the scoresheet in the Aiglons' last European away game (in Salzburg) is not without hope for Thursday's match. Quite the contrary, in fact - his ambition is on par with the stakes. "We've struggled in the Europa League so far this season. It's a good competition that has given us a chance to learn and gain experience. These matches are battles, so we have to be ready to fight. We're heading to Schalke looking for the win, quite simply. It will be complicated, but you never know what can happen in football. With the team we have, we can achieve something."