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Cvitanich return to boost surprise package Nice

The Argentine, who has scored 12 league goals in 20 games, has been out for a month with a thigh injury and the club have been forced to rely on youngsters in his absence.

Teenager Neal Maupay and 20-year-old Stephane Bahoken have stepped up to the plate, netting three goals between them in Nice's last four Ligue 1 games to hint at a bright future for the club.

Nice, who have not managed a top-five finish since they clinched second place in 1976, lie only two points adrift of third-placed Olympique Marseille, who occupy the Champions League play-off spot.

They travel to bottom club Nancy on Sunday ahead of a potentially decisive home clash against Marseille in their next outing.

In Cvitanich's absence, coach Claude Puel has had to tinker with his line-up.

Maupay, who at 16 became the second youngest French player to score in Ligue 1, netted the only goal at Bastia in February while Bahoken bagged a double against Montpellier in his first start on Sunday.

"Neal is a very good player who has scored important goals for Nice. But he is only 16 and we should not forget that," Cvitanich said.

On his return, Cvitanich will be deprived of one of his key supply lines in midfielder Valentin Eysseric.

Eysseric is suspended until the end of the season after he broke the leg of Saint-Etienne's Jeremy Clement with a dangerous tackle in their Ligue 1 clash at the start of the month.

"Valentin is a very important player to us. We try to make do without him, but we will miss him," said Cvitanich.

Elsewhere, Marseille take on AC Ajaccio on Friday, while Lille, sixth on 46 points, will look to win their sixth straight Ligue 1 match when they host strugglers Evian Thonon Gaillard on Saturday.

Leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who have 57 points from 28 games, face a tricky trip to fourth-placed Saint-Etienne on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti's side will be without Brazil striker Lucas, who is sidelined with an angle injury.

Second-placed Olympique Lyon, four points off the pace, travel to Bastia on Saturday.