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5 European teams who have surprised everyone this season

Liam Flin
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 18 Feb 2017, 15:26 IST
Top 5 / Top 10
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#4 OGC Nice

Mario Balotelli has made a big impact on the French club since signing for them in the summer

Finishing only two points off second spot in fourth, Nice took the 2015/16 Ligue 1 season by storm. The club had a good blend of youth and experience and Hatem Ben Arfa at the heart of their midfield; the former-Newcastle man racked up a remarkable 17 goals and 6 assists in the season. It was a great achievement by the club and Europe was calling, unfortunately, that would not be enough to keep the group together.

Ben Arfa would be snapped up by French giants PSG on a free transfer, whilst other key components Nampalys Mendy, Jérémy Pied and Valère Germain would too head for the exit door. Most troubling of all though was the loss of genius manager Claude Puel to Southampton, the man who had invigorated a mediocre squad of players. The brief empire looked to be crumbling and rather than looking to build on European football this campaign, many were tipping Nice for a turbulent season ahead.

On the contrary, the club responded emphatically to remain unbeaten until early November and kick-start a title charge. Frontmen Alassane Pléa (11) and Mario Balotelli (9) have twenty goals between them already and the southern side are just five points adrift of leaders Monaco and an incredible 13 points ahead of fourth-place Lyon.

Champions League football looks a very achievable goal for the club now who ooze ambition and look desperate to become the first side to win Ligue 1 other than PSG since 2012.

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Published 18 Feb 2017, 14:59 IST
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