Nantes and Juventus are set to lock horns once again in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League knockout playoff on Thursday.

Juventus will aim to book their spot in the UEFA Europa League Last 16 when they make a potentially season-defining trip to the Stade de la Beaujoire to face Nantes in the return leg of their finely-balanced Europa League knockout playoff tie.

Nantes will be the happier of the two sides to still remain alive in the tie after playing out a 1-1 draw in the first encounter in Italy. They went behind early on and rode their luck several times before Ludovic Blas equalised midway through the second half thanks to a lightning-quick transitional play.

Kombouare’s side has been hot and cold throughout the domestic season, failing to consolidate on their European qualification campaign from the previous season, and are currently languishing in upper-mid table positions, 11 points away from the final Europa Conference League spot.

The French outfit did not have the finest preparation for the second leg, as they were thrashed 3-1 at Lens in Ligue 1 last Sunday. They will, however, remain confident because it was their third defeat in the previous fourteen matches across all competitions (W7 D4).

Following their failure to advance past the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2013/14, Juventus have been touted as one of the leading contenders to lift the Europa League trophy. This seems to be their best chance of securing next season’s Champions League berth following the points deduction imposed on them earlier this season.

Juventus will be rueing themselves for failing to take the lead despite dominating the first meeting due to their profligate finishing. They had multiple chances to increase their one-goal advantage in the first half, with Federico Chiesa hitting the woodwork, but, in the end, Dusan Vlahovic’s early effort was wiped off by the French side.

Nevertheless, they will be confident about their chances of progressing after returning to winning ways last Sunday, picking up a 2-0 victory at Spezia thanks to goals from Moise Kean and Angel Di Maria. Massimiliano Allegri’s side are now undefeated in their last five matches, clinching four victories in that run.

Team News & Tactics


Nantes will be without the services of long-term absentees Ignatius Ganago and Quentin Merlin, but lightning-fast attacker Moses Simon has returned to the fold ahead of this match. Nantes head coach Antoine Kombouare was frustrated following a loss against Lens.

He remarked that their opponent dominated the game, resulting in a crushing defeat. The Canaries will most likely set up in a defensive 3-5-2 setup against Juventus on Thursday, so they could utilise the pace of their frontline to hit their opponents on transitions.

The defence in front of Alban Lafont has also performed well of late. Nicolas Pallois is a gritty, no-nonsense defender, and has maintained a high level despite his advancing years alongside the likes of Jean-Charles Castelletto, and Andrei Girotto in a back-three.

The wing-backs, Fabien Centonze and Coco, will be tasked with stretching the pitch while allowing the likes of Ludovic Blas, who scored the equaliser in the first leg, to use his creativity and explosiveness without pressure, with the attacker acting as their main protagonist in the Europa League as of yet, leading his team in goals (3), assists (3), shots (22) and chances created (15) in this season’s second-tier European competition.

The midfielders should be equally important to avoid giving the opposition any room to work with, although it will be interesting to see whether Kombouare makes any alterations to the side that lost to Lens.

It appears Moussa Sissoko, Samuel Moutoussamy, and Pedro Chirivella are likely starters in the midfield trio, with attacking midfielder Florent Mollet getting a breather. Attacker Mostafa Mohamed provides a lot of verticality as well as positional fluidity and will be critical in the first line of press.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2):Β Lafont; Castelletto, Girotto, Pallois; Centonze, Sissoko, Chirivella, Moutoussamy, Coco; Blas, Mohamed


Long-term absentees, Paul Pogba (knee), Arkadiusz Milik (muscle), Fabio Miretti (ankle), and Kaio Jorge (knee) are still unavailable for selection. Federico Chiesa, who recently made a comeback from a 10-month absence due to an ACL injury, missed Juve’s triumph over Spezia last weekend with a knock but could be back in time to make this trip.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri will likely revert to a 3-5-1-1 formation after playing the front-three of Di Maria, the in-demand Vlahovic, and Chiesa in the first meeting. Here, though, Di Maria will support Dusan Vlahovic upfront in a two, while Moise Kean and Chiesa will have to contend with an appearance off the bench,

The Brazilian trio of Danilo, Gleison Bremer, and Alex Sandro, will start at the back, as they did in the first leg, with Wojciech Szczesny between the posts. In another piece of good news, Leonardo Bonucci is back fit and training. The club captain hasn’t featured at all in 2023 due to a muscular problem. He trained with the squad over the last two days but it’s unlikely he’ll be a starter here.

In the middle of the park, Nicolo Fagioli will get the nod over the underperforming Leandro Paredes, joining usual starters Manuel Locatelli and Adrien Rabiot. Filip Kostic remains the undisputed choice on the left flank, whereas Mattia De Sciglio and Juan Cuadrado are vying for a berth on the right flank.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3):Β Szczesny; Danilo, Bremer, Sandro; Di Sciglio, Fagioli, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic; Di Maria, Vlahovic

Key Stats

  • Nantes have not advanced from a knockout round tie in a major European competition since the 2000/01 season.
  • Nantes have allowed only seven goals in the last 13 matches but conceded three in one game against Lens over the weekend.
  • Nantes are currently unbeaten in three matches in Europe.
  • Juventus have won only one of their last nine games in Europe (D2 L6), conceding two goals per game on average during this run.
  • TheΒ BianconeriΒ have lost each of their last three away games in European competitions as well.

Player to Watch

Angel Di Maria

Most Juventus fans appear to have changed their opinions about Angel Di Maria after harshly criticising the Argentina international earlier in the season. El Fideo joined Juventus as a free agent last summer, signing a one-year deal at the Allianz Stadium.

However, the start was tricky for the former PSG star, who struggled with injuries and was scarcely involved before the World Cup break. The 2022 World Cup hero is now proving his naysayers wrong despite being considered by many to be in the twilight years of his career, contributing five goals in the last six Serie A matches.

In Sunday’s 2-0 win over Spezia, he needed less than 45 minutes on the pitch to further consolidate his role as the main talisman at Juventus with a long-range low drive to seal all three points for the Bianconeri. He also set up Juventus’s goal in the first leg with a sublime through ball. And he looks to be enjoying his best form since the famous Black and White.

Arguably the most underrated player of the current generation, Di Maria’s sheer quality and end product in the final third would surely give Juventus an upper hand heading into the second leg in Nantes.


Nantes 0-1 Juventus

Juventus may have failed to hold onto their initial lead in the first leg. But they remain the favourites to progress and should have too much in the attacking department for Nantes to deal with. However, the hosts have picked up results at home lately, winning four of their last eight games in all competitions (D3 L1).

For all their much-improved form, Nantes are hardly prolific. Juventus give up very little at the back. And this could lead to a fairly low-scoring encounter, with The Hard Tackle tipping the Bianconeri to edge out a narrow victory and book their place in the Round of 16 of the European second-tier competition.

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