Vieira hoping for lift-off after awful start with Nice

Andy SCOTT
Patrick Vieira (L) wore a dejected look after Nice went down 4-0 to Dijon last weekend

Patrick Vieira's appointment as coach of Nice in the close season was hailed as a great coup for the Ligue 1 side, but the former France midfielder is already facing mounting pressure after just three games.

Nice go into a tough assignment away at Lyon on Friday on the rebound following a 4-0 trouncing at home to Dijon last weekend, which left the Cote d'Azur club with just a single point to their name so far this season.

The depressing performance against Dijon, which ended with widespread whistles from home fans at the Allianz Riviera, came after Nice had lost at home to newly-promoted Reims on the opening weekend, followed by a 1-1 draw at Caen.

Vieira was appointed in July to succeed Lucien Favre after his departure for Borussia Dortmund.

Now 42, he returned to France with a burgeoning reputation in management after two years in MLS with New York City FC.

While he still had everything to prove in coaching, Nice were applauded for attracting a member of France's 1998 World Cup-winning side, one of the finest midfielders of his generation.

But early results have tempered that initial wave of enthusiasm, and -- who knows -- could have given his old Arsenal and France team-mate Thierry Henry reason to be cautious about accepting the Bordeaux job.

While Henry will not be returning to Ligue 1 after rejecting that offer, Vieira is bullish about the task facing him.

- 'A great challenge' -

"You really get to see the character of your players when times are tough. It's a great challenge. I believe in the players. We will turn things around, without any doubt," he said after last week's game.

This week Vieira called one journalist "cheeky" for asking him if he should be worried about his future at the club, but a trip to Lyon is harldy the ideal fixture in the current circumstances.

In Vieira's defence, Nice lost two outstanding players in the summer, with Ivorian midfielder Jean-Michael Seri sold to Fulham and forward Alassane Plea leaving for Borussia Moenchengladbach.

- Balotelli back -

Plea scored 16 league goals last season, while Mario Balotelli netted 18, but the Italian has missed the opening three games of this season due to suspension.

At least Balotelli is staying, after a mooted move to Marseille fell through, and he is set to return here.

"We know all about his qualities and his faults. When you look at his stats from the last two years, we know he is capable of scoring lots of goals," said Vieira.

Nabil Fekir will hope to make his first start for Lyon since winning the World Cup with France, at the end of a busy week for his club.

Lyon have extended the contract of Brazilian defender Marcelo until 2021 and have been heavily linked with a move for Celtic striker Mouusa Dembele, a France under-21 international.

His arrival would compensate for the loss of Mariano Diaz, who is set to return to Real Madrid a year after moving in the other direction.

The closure of the transfer window on Friday night casts a shadow over the weekend in France, as Paris Saint-Germain look to continue their perfect start away at newly-promoted Nimes.

Monaco host Marseille in the standout fixture on Sunday.

Fixtures this weekend

Friday

Lyon v Nice (1845 GMT)

Saturday

Nimes v Paris Saint-Germain (1500 GMT), Angers v Lille, Dijon v Caen, Guingamp v Toulouse, Reims v Montpellier, Strasbourg v Nantes (all 1800 GMT)

Sunday

Saint-Etienne v Amiens (1300 GMT), Rennes v Bordeaux (1500 GMT), Monaco v Marseille (1900 GMT)