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Mario Balotelli hits double figures for the season as Nice’s rise continues

Mario Balotelli hits double figures for the season as Nice’s rise continues

Mario Balotelli’s sweet strike with a quarter of an hour remaining was the difference as Nice defeated Nantes, 2-1.

Lucien Favre says Mario Balotelli’s progress at Nice is “very positive” after the striker took his goals tally into double figures on Sunday.

Balotelli scored his 10th league goal of the campaign to secure a 1-0 win over Bordeaux on Sunday.

It was his fifth strike in as many competitive outings, and means the former Manchester City and Liverpool forward’s goals have secured 15 of Nice’s 26 points this season.

It also means he is two-thirds of the way to his 2016-17 tally of 15, which represented his best-ever single-season return, and marks the continued improvement he has shown since being cast aside by Jurgen Klopp at Anfield.

“Last season, Mario played one match in two. It was either him or Alassane [Plea]. Now, they’re playing together, which means a lot of things, even if Alassane tends to drift more into the centre than stay on the left,” said Favre, who has employed his two front-line strikers in a 4-4-2 formation this season.

Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring in the win against Bordeaux.

“As for Baloteli, he plays more for the team in terms of tracking back and sometimes even in pressing. Above all, he makes more runs when we’re attacking. There’s still a lot of work to do, but he’s coming back from a long way down too. So, what he does is very positive.”

Balotelli’s sizzling form has helped Nice register four straight league wins, lifting them from the bottom three and into sixth place with one game remaining ahead of France’s short winter break.

However, the Italy international will sit out Nice’s long trip north to Lille, where he scored in last week’s Coupe de la Ligue round of 32 win, due to suspension.

“We know Mario will be suspended. We have to put in a good performance and score without him,” Favre said.

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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