Steve Mandanda: A Man Amongst Mice


What makes a good clubman?

Unending loyalty to the organisation and its fans? Exemplary performances to push the team forward? Being a guiding light when things go wrong? Remarkable leadership and an acceptance of personal responsibility? Or is it just doing the best job you possibly can on and off the pitch for your team?

Olympique de Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda ticks all of these boxes, and has been the backbone of an otherwise flaky OM organisation both on and off the pitch. The 30-year-old, contrary to popular belief, has only been at the club eight years, but in that time has become one of the most symbolic players in Marseille’s modern era.

The netminder arrived on loan from Le Harve in 2007 for €400,000, and profited from Cédric Carasso’s knee injury to play over 34 times for Les Phocéens both domestically and in European competition, and winning Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year before making his move to the Vélodrome permanent for the miniscule sum of €2.5 million in the summer of 08.

To put that into perspective that’s the same amount that Arsenal paid last summer for two 16-year-olds, or what Galatasaray have paid for uncapped Dutch defensive-midfielder and former West Brom disappointment Ryan Donk.

The Zaire-born shot stopper has since won a Ligue 1 title, the Coupe de la Ligue title three times, and has been named Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the year also on three separate occasions. He has been capped over 20 times for the national team, and in 2010 was the natural choice to replace Mamadou Niang as captain of OM, despite only being at the club a few years.

Despite Marseille’s disappointing end to the season Mandanda was again named goalkeeper of the year, and became the club second most capped player after 391 games with the crest on his heart; and at the start of the season he passed the 400 mark, now with 415 games he stands just 40 games behind Roger Scotti as the all-time appearance record holder.

In those appearances Mandanda has seen the good and bad, and despite all of the difficulties the club has had the goalkeeper has remained, despite being linked to the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, AC Milan and Juventus during his time at the Vélodrome. With his contract now expiring the 30-year-old has been linked to several clubs, most notably Aston Villa, whom were chasing the French international fervently during the current winter transfer window.

Despite club chairman Vincent Labrune announcing that Mandanda would be staying, there continued to be much speculation, particularly given OM’s policy of farming players out as soon as the right money is offered (as evidenced by the appalling transfer dealings this summer). And after he single-handedly put OM through to the next round of the cup versus SC Caen (pulling off a number of top class saves to keep a clean-sheet before saving three of the four Caen penalties) eyes only grew wider for Villa, who find themselves struggling in the wrong part of the Premier League table with games now running out.

However, that was put to bed by Mandanda himself; never one to shy away from responsibility, the Marseille icon announced on facebook that he would not be leaving.

“Out of respect for the Marseille supporters, I’ve decided to break my silence concerning my future” he announced via his facebook page “My agent received offers from several clubs to leave this January…I’ve decided to stay at Marseille…One of the main reasons was my attachment to Marseille. I have responsibilities, I am the captain. My adventure with Marseille is not a simple one; it’s a story of how I built a part of my life here.”

For many players an announcement of such gravity would come as a shock, but for a man who has represented Marseille superlatively since his very first game the decision to openly admit his future comes as no great surprise.

It does come as some relief to Labrune however, who has sold the vast majority of his marquee players in the summer, seeing Marseille slump as low as 19th, and only sticking their head into the upper end of the table in the last few weeks. OM have been appalling at home, and their inability to score has been putting serious pressure on Mandanda and his less than firm defence. Off-the-field Mandanda has also been a leader, keeping the dressing room together after Marcelo Biesla deserted OM, and successor Michel has been under considerable criticism.

It’s been majorly down to the heroics of the 30-year-old that OM have managed to steer themselves away from the relegation places, and still somehow find themselves competing on every front. He has been putting in match-winning performances, and along with the brilliant Lassana Diarra, have been managing to make up for the uncountable amount of passengers Les Phocéens seem to be carrying in every game.

The question is, however, do Marseille deserve to keep him?

While there is no question about the fans’ support and devotion for him and team OM, serious questions continue to linger about the management of Marseille, and whether choices are really being made for the benefit of the club, and its players.

The goalkeeper’s refreshing honesty cannot be said to have spread to those behind the scenes at the Vélodrome, where secrecy and suspicion ostensibly run rife. Shady business dealings with criminals have been exposed in recent years, while the club’s selling policy have meant that Marseille have captured just a single league title in the last 15 years, and far from being the European superpower they were (and arguably should still be), OM have now become a selling club to not only those more powerful on the continent, but in l’hexagon itself.

Mandanda himself has had a disappointing career at international level, and with first-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris having already left Ligue 1 to shine on the global stage of the Premier League, the temptation must be hugely strong for Mandanda to follow suit and do the same, ahead of a huge year with France hosting this year’s European Championships.

However, like he always does, Steve Mandanda has once again put the team’s fortunes ahead of his own, and stuck around for what will almost certainly be an extremely difficult second-half of the season. With his contract set to expire this summer OM fans will be waiting with baited breath to see if they can hold on to their lynchpin for another season, if not Marseille will not only have lost an instrumental player, but a man amongst mice at the Vélodrome.

Kevin Galvin



Marseille v Nice – 8/11/15 – Match Preview


OM go in search of their 4th victory in a row, something not achieved since May earlier this year. But hard fought victories over Lille, Nantes and Braga have given OM a push as they look to claw their way back up the table towards the European spots, currently 7 points off the 3rd Champion’s League place.

Michel will be exceptionally happy with 2 clean sheets from the 3 previous games, but the results have been quite tight and Nice have managed 26 goals this season, second only to psg, and 8 more than OM have mustered, though Nice have conceded 4 more than OM.

Away from home Nice have travelled well picking up 11 points from a possible 18, only suffering 1 defeat, surprisingly at the hands of Gazelec Ajaccio in week 11.

Michel has a rather depleted squad for this game with Cabella, Diarra and Nkoulou all suspended for the game, while Alessandrini and Dja Djedje miss out through injury and Diary is still not ready to play. The full squad is made up of: Mandanda, Pelé, De Ceglie, Manquillo, Mendy, Rekik, Rolando, Sparagna, Barrada, Isla, Lopez, Romao, Sarr, Silva, Zambo-Anguissa, Batshuayi, Nkoudou, Ocampos.

Likely starting 11:


Manquillo, Rolando, Rekik, Mendy

Silva, Romao

Nkoudou, Barrada, Ocampos


Attacking-wise, OM should fair ok with Nkoudou and Ocampos getting some recent game time and performing well against Braga mid-week, however the big question will be how OM cope with former talisman Ben Arfa and Germain, who have netted 11 goals between them so far this seaosn. With Nkoulou and Diarra absent there is a gaping hole through the centre of the team. Silva and Romao will be expected to protect the centre back pairing of Rolando and Rekik, pushing any Nice attacks out wide for Manquillo and Mendy to deal with.

Likely starting 11 for Nice:


Pied, Bodmer, Merchand, Pereira

Koziello, Mendy, Seri


Ben Arfa, Germain

With only 2 places and 3 points separating these 2 teams, it is likely that Sunday afternoon’s game will be a tight affair, but with many attacking opportunities for both teams. Expect an end-to-end game, that should hope to be entertaining to the neutral. (Disclaimer – bet on 0-0 borefest now!)

Marseille v Lorient – 28/10/15 – Preview

After the international break, it feels hard to be up for the next game, against Lorient. Look back and we haven’t won in 5 games, are on the back of 3 straight defeats, 1 at the hands of Angers and one at the hands of Slovan Liberec, and another at the hands of that team from the capital. Add to that the punishment of stand closures from the Lyon game, which is still fresh in the memory, the threat of whole stadium closure and fine for this and you’ll excuse me if I’m not chomping at the bit for a Sunday lunch-time visit of Lorient (who last time we played them caned us 5-3 and ex-OM enigma Jordan Ayew bagged a brace and played out of his skin).

But then, I think back to that game in the capital. Another set of questionable decisions screwing us over, but actually that’s all that the performance had in common to previous years. On the pitch we had a squad, no a team, who actually performed to a level near their capabilities, gone was the usual OM squad who turned up and were blinded by the bright (spot) lights, disturbed by the glittery fireworks and blown away by the draft from all the plastic plastic-flag-waving supporters. Just like the OM fans, their team went out and just didn’t give a shit.

More of the same on Sunday would be nice to see from Michel’s team thank you. Play like that and 16th in the Ligue should soon become a distant memory, despite games against Lille, Nantes, ASSE and Monaco coming up. Perform like that and we should overcome the difficult trips to Braga and Liberec in the Europa League and should comfortably qualify for the next round. Perform like that and the OM faithful will be back on side no problem, as it would appear that Barrada, Cabella and Alessandrini are up to the task of filling big empty spaces from last year.

Michel has almost a full squad available with only Barrada missing from the usual first 11 team. Andonian and Isla also miss out.

Full squad: Mandanda, Pelé, Manquillo, Nkoulou, Mendy, Rekik, Rolando, Sparagna, De Ceglie, Dja Djédjé, Silva, Diarra, Cabella, Sarr, Romao, Zambo Anguissa, Ocampos, Alessandrini, Nkoudou, Batshuayi.

Expected starting 11:


Manquillo, Nkoulou, Reki, Mendy

Diarra, Silva

Alessandrini, Cabella, Ocampos


Lorient head to the partially closed Velodrome having only suffered 1 defeat in their last 5, picking up a win on the road at Monaco and home victories over Angers, Caen and Bordeaux.

They sit 6 points above us in 9th after a solid start to the season, despite losing some key players over the summer.

Expected starting 11:


Paye, Kone, Toure, Goff

Jouffre, Ndong, Bellugou, Guerreiro

Waris, Moukandjo

5 Things Learned From Le Classique

So despite Marseille’s best efforts two penalties undid their good work and PSG extend their lead to the top by 5 points, the result means yet another win for the Parisiens, and Marseille are now just four points from the relegation zone.

But what else did we actually learn from the latest edition of France’s biggest derby? Kevin Galvin investigates.

1. Marseille still have fight

Les Phocéens came out of the block chomping at the bit last night, and had a number of good chances as they stunned Paris Saint-Germain for the opening 20 minutes. Alessandrini was getting the better of Aurier, Thiago Motta was kept quiet by Lucas Silva, and as Michy Batshuayi’s goal was more than deserved when it came.

After the disappointment before the half OM hung in, and even more satisfyingly for Michel won themselves a penalty; while the ultimate result was a loss for Marseille the signs are far more positive than following their insipid displays against Angers and Slovan Liberec during the week.

However, Michel’s side are still just four points ahead of the relegation zone, and will need to take full points from their next four games against Lorient, Lille, Nantes and Nice to bolster their position before facing Saint Étienne away on November 21st.

2. PSG can win dirty

It wasn’t a vintage performance by PSG by any means, but the Parisians crucially got the three points against a Marseille side who arguably played their best football of the season at the Parc de princes.

Laurent Blanc’s side showed their resolve; they came from behind to beat Nantes 4-1 last week, and despite not dominating in the way that they did last week in Stade de la Beaujoire, PSG earned another crucial three points in their bid to win the title for a third season in a row, and have dropped only four points from their first nine games.

3. PSG’s new signings can do it in the big games

Apart from the two penalties, Zlatan Ibrahimovic did very little in last night’s game, having an unusually small impact in a Classique encounter. However, that was compensated by the two fantastic performances of their big summer signings, Angel Di Maria, and Kevin Trapp.

Di Maria was at the centre of everything good for the hosts, and absolutely roasted Paolo De Ceglie down the right hand flank, often linking up with Aurier and Maxwell, and having a big impact on both PSG penalties. The Argentinean scored last year, and is already proving a handful for French defences, Blanc will hope that the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star can do the same in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages.

Kevin Trapp meanwhile was PSG’s biggest hero of the night, saving the penalty that would have given Marseille a point, and with moments remaining in the game the German positioned himself perfectly to save from Cabella when it seemed certain that the visitors would be leaving with a point. In all Trapp had five saves, and was voted man of the match.

4. Pressing is they key in Paris

One of the keys to Marseille’s early success was their energy and pressing of the PSG midfield. On numerous occasions Le Phocéens earned themselves golden chances by closing down Thiago Motta in particular, winning the ball back, and countering with intent.

In the first half Motta was inches away from conceding a penalty after handballing Romain Alessandrini’s cross, while in the second such a break led to Abdelaziz Barrada being taken down by Serge Aurier for Marseille’s penalty, which, if converted, could have certainly earned a point for OM.

5. Laurent Blanc’s rivalling José Mourinho for entertainment value

Laurent Blanc is always worth a listen to in a post-match interview; honest, frank, insightful, the PSG manager was once again in top form last night, honestly admitting that the best team didn’t necessarily win, and that Marseille could feel very hard done by.

However, the quote of the night came when Canal + reporter Olivier Tallaron asked the former French international if he saw that Rihanna was in the stand to support his team.

“No, I think she’s looking for you though” he said before walking off camera. Microphone. Drop.

Cabella – a gamble not paying off

It’s 2:45pm local time and the eerie silence has just been severed by the piercing sounds of whistles on the South coast of France. With two sides closed off by the LFP, and the other two half-empty, le Vel’ has barely looked sadder in its 80 year history.

The whistles in the stands follow that of the match’s referee, Mikael Lesage, who has just signalled the end of Olympique Marseille’s latest disappointment in Ligue 1. The Phoceéns, who have lost the core of their side, their manager, their Ultras, and their fourth game in eight, now find themselves in 14th position after one of their worst ever starts in the top division.

It’s been a pretty tough 10 days for all those involved at the club, in a season full off disappointments so far; poor results against Toulouse and now Angers followed a 1-1 draw against Lyon, in a game that’s antics did more to damage the club than the point gained could ever repay.

More worrying however for the Phocéens, were the limp and insipid displays that followed on the pitch against Toulouse, and then on Sunday against newly promoted Angers. Fingers have been pointed squarely at Vincent Labrune, and rather unfairly in my opinion at Michel, come in to right a listing ship, but in truth much of the blame must lie with the players themselves.

Take the case of Remy Cabella; the 25 year-old had already won a Ligue 1 title with Montpellier, and signed a six-year deal with Newcastle United in 2014 and was expected to do great things on Tyneside. However, in reality the midfielder was largely disappointing, and with only one goal and two assists in 31 appearances, the Toon were only delighted to ship him back out on loan, and welcome Florian Thauvin, a far more consistent performer.

Cabella’s was Marseille’s biggest signing in the summer (Unless you count sicknote Abou Diaby from Arsenal), and it was hoped the French international would at least partly make up for the losses of Dimitri Payet, and the aforementioned Thauvin; yet nothing could have been further from the truth.

Cabella has done virtually nothing positive to contribute since he’s arrived in Marseille; six games, zero assists, zero goals. As a matter of fact, the only number to his name has been the two yellow cards he’s picked up, and the consistent low scores he’s been receiving on his player ratings. Conversely, the Corsican native has contributed directly to Marseille’s last two disappointing results, missing a sitter against Toulouse on Wednesday, and committing a criminal foul for Angers’ penalty on Sunday.

Angevian left-back Arnold Bouka Moutou’s run down the flank was threatening, but Manquillo had come across the cover, and with the visiting defender facing away from goal it seemed like the situation had been contained. That was, until, Rémy arrived, scything through the back of Moutou and changing the game. Having dominated the early exchanges and out-shooting their opponents 5-1, OM were now a goal behind and chasing the game in the second-half.

Cabella himself admitted his own poor form after the game in Toulouse, and perhaps his rashness in Sunday’s game was an over-zealous attempt to put things right; however as a now seasoned professional that expected level of maturity has been badly lacking thus far. It also must be said that the Gazélec Ajaccio youngster isn’t the only expected leader on the pitch who has failed to show the way.

Going through the squad; N’Koulou, De Ceglie, Dja Djé Djé, all players on Sunday who you’d expect to galvanise the side following the penalty, and all players who where nowhere to be found as Olympique’s lack of  backbone was plain to see. Romain Alessandini was watching from the stands, still suspended after a needless sending off for a brainless tackle on super-villian Valbuena the week before. Lucas Ocampos summed it up in the final moments; caught in possession dawdling with four team-mates unmarked in the area, the chorus of whistles were frankly merited.

It comes as no great surprise, however, as Marseille try to deal with the gutting of their side in the off-season, and though it’s still early, Michel will almost certainly have to target the next transfer window to make up for the trail of destruction left behind by Marcelo Biesla’s departure. Key players in key positions have not been adequately replaced, and the new players are trying to stamp their authority under extreme pressure, as the older heads, Steve Mandanda to name one, try to hold everything together.

Will things get better for Les Phocéens? Possibly. But with a trip to Paris on Sunday to face a supremely confident PSG, things are very likely get a whole lot worse beforehand.

Labrune, Fit for Purpose?


Irish Marseille fan Kevin Galvin (@shefellover93) questions OM President Vincent Labrune’s ability to govern one of the world’s most unique and passionate clubs.

As the dust settles on a charged Olympico derby, fingers are being pointed at those responsible for the terrible scenes that caused last night’s game to be suspended over 20 minutes, and will undoubtedly result in sanctions for l’OM and its supporters.

The source? Mathieu Valbuena; the former Marseille midfielder is currently in a lawsuit with the club to the tune of over half a million euros (£414,000) for issues arising with his agent. Valbuena believes that money he had to pay to his agent for breaking the contract should have, in fact, been paid by the club itself.

Valbuena’s lawyer says that current Marseille president Vincent Labrune made a ‘verbal agreement’ to pay the sum to agent Christophe Hutteau, and is now in the courts against Les Phocéens. The case was taken four days before the French international was due to return to the Vélodrome, before Valbuena himself was quoted as saying only the “true” Marseille supporters wouldn’t jeer him, and rather predictably, yet somewhat disturbingly his effigy was hanging on the roof of the Vélodrome as the teams came out to warm-up, a sign of things to come.

The game itself saw the hosts use what could comfortably be described as anti-tactics, trying to kick Lyon out of the opening exchanges, despite the fact that they themselves were more than capable of playing some decent football, as shown by Batshuayi’s great run leading to Alessandrini just shooting wide in the early moments.

However the narrative that dominated was some of the appalling and calculated fouling of Marseille. Remi Cabella was very lucky to have only gotten a caution after a dangerous two-footed tackle on Christophe Jallet. Valbuena was then taken out by Rekik, causing temperatures to rise on the pitch.

After Steve Mandanda just missed out the chase with Lacazette he brought the Lyon forward down, Lacazette converting himself to give Lyon the lead. The white hot atmosphere boiled over as Romain Alessandrini scythed through the back of Valbuena, and earned an admittedly harsh red card from referee, but again putting the attention, and the blame in the eyes of the Phocéens, on traitor Valbuena.

One man in particular that the blame is being put at is Marseille club president Vincent Labrune. The director’s comments during and following the incident have been pretty inexplicable, given the week that the club has been through. While Labrune isn’t known for measured response; videos of Marseille hooligans taking apart parts of Groningen before OM’s Europa League game against the Dutch side on Thursday, added to last night’s incident, the President’s reaction has been counter-productive, unprofessional and simply immature.

“I think everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror; I’ll be accepting my responsibilities as president, and I want everyone else to look at those at the Football Federation, the referees, and Olympique Lyonnais as well. The club accepts its responsibilities for the two or three bottles thrown onto the pitch”

But as the pictures show, it wasn’t just two or three beer bottles. Harmless paper balls were followed by a torrent of plastic beer bottles, and eventually a lit flare at Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopez, before the players were eventually escorted from the pitch, riot police followed to protect the playing surface.

This is the man that should be wanting to avoid this kind of incident; but instead of accepting the obvious problem that, albeit a minority, fans in the Vélodrome last night were unable to behave themselves and that the game was postponed due to their actions, he would rather deflect the blame on parties that had very little to contribute to the situation.

Labrune is allegedly the reason why the whole Valbuena incident has gotten to the stage it has, over a year after the midfielder left the Mediterranean coast. He refused to comment following the disgusting scenes of hooliganism in Groningen, and has now totally stuck his head in the sand to a problem which almost caused the first abandonment in a Ligue 1 match due to crowd trouble.

Not only has he not accepted his own responsibilities by not acknowledging the extent of the problem, but he’s trying to lay the blame on parties that have little-or-nothing to do with it. Insinuating that the referees were part of last night’s problem is extremely dangerous and irresponsible on two fronts. First, it undermines fans’ responsibilities, regardless of what happens on the pitch, it also undermines the referee’s job, and need for impartiality, regardless of his decisions.

The fact is that last night’s referee Rudy Buquet called the game as he saw it; Mandanda did make contact with Lacazette, and while Alessandirini’s foul was borderline a red, the fact that Valbuena was being kicked up and down the pitch meant that the man in the middle had to ensure player safety, and therefore clamp down on the antics that Marseille were employing.

Labrune then tries to blame the Federation, for presumably hosting the game, and then Lyon, for what, turning up?! The away side kept playing despite the detritus pouring down on them, and then re-took the pitch to finish the game, surrendering their goal advantage in the process, something which I imagine OL officials will have something to say about when the issue is brought to the LFP.

This is not the first instance in which Labrune has proved himself unfit for purpose; empty promises, spats with managers, suspicions over illegal activity and ill-judged comments have plagued his tenure since taking over in 2011.

Meanwhile a disastrous transfer window has seen some of OM’s biggest stars depart while only Abou Diaby (on the Premier League’s list of most inured players of all-time) and Rémy Cabella (A man that made little-to-no impact at Newcastle) have been the only ones brought in.

With Biesla walking out after the first game during Marseille’s disappointing start to the season, ill-discipline plaguing the side, and now almost certain financial and supporter sanctions to hit Marseille after bad behaviour both home and away; Labrune’s refusal to combat these issues, and his feeble attempts to deflect attention onto others forces Marseille fans to ask if he is indeed the right man for the job.

Marseille v Lyon – ‘Olympico’ Match Preview – 20/09/15


The ‘Olympico’, a term some love and some hate, but regardless of your thoughts about its title there’s no doubt that the competition around this game over the past few seasons has become more and more intense. With both teams pushing towards the top of Ligue 1 more recently, regardless of the ‘history’ of the game, there’s no doubt that it means a great deal to the fans and the players. With the return of Valbuena to the Velodrome this season, there’s perhaps even more at stake.

OM approach the game after back to back wins for the first time under Michel, having seen off Bastia at home 4-1 last week, OM achieved their first away win of the campaign with a convincing 3-0 win over Dutch opponents Groningen in the Europa League. The win was achieved with an unexpected starting 11 that contained 6 changes to the side that turned over Bastia. In Europe, OM unusually played as more of a counter-attacking side, having less possession than their opponents for the first time since Bielsa took charge. This worked well though for OM as they created a number of chances from these breaks, and against sides like Lyon and psg this could be a successful way forward.

Michel has Diarra fit for the match, but Dja Djedje. Ocampos and Rolando are all rested. The squad could well be looking for the experience and cool headedness from Diarra that they have often lacked in the ‘big’ games of the past few seasons. Diaby is still yet to feature again as he continues his progress towards match fitness. It would be no surprise to see Michel start with the same side that beat Bastia last Sunday.

The full OM squad: Mandanda, Pele, De Ceglie, Manquillo, Mendy, Nkoulou, Rekik, Sparagna, Alessandrini, Barrada, Cabella, Diarra, Isla, Romao, Sarr, Silva, Zambo Anguissa, Batshuayi, Nkoudou.

Likely starting 11:


Manquillo, Nkoulou, Rekik, Mendy


Alessandrini, Silva, Barrada, Cabella


Lyon come into the game on the back of 2 draws, 0-0 at home against Lille and 1-1 away in Gent (UCL). Prior to this Hubert Fournier’s side have also struggled to get going this season picking up a point Lorient, 3 away at Guingamp and Caen, whilst suffering a defeat at the hands of Rennes. Lyon will be without Fofana and Fekir, while Kone and Rafael are both doubts. Former OM hero, Valbuena, returns as the pantomime villain having returned to France after a season with Dynamo Moscow. OM had initially retired his number 28 shirt when he left, however none expected him to return to France, especially not with one of OM’s major rivals. Another former OM ‘hero’, Morel, also returns to the Velodrome although it would be fair to say his reception could be far more lenient than that of Valbuena who is views as more of a ‘traitor’ (Valbuenain). Morel was a love-hate figure at OM who grew to be liked more towards the end of his tenure at the club through his effort and endevours, though he was always susceptible to the odd howler. Valbuena and Beavue are likely to be the dangermen, but the OM defensive line can’t forget about Lacazette who will be desperate to rekindle his form from last season and get back on the good side of the OL fans.

The view of @OLnews_eng:

Saying that OL is preparing this first huge league matchup of the season with limited confidence is an understatement. Coming off a very, very disappointing result in Champions League, OL has only showed glimpses of the free-flowing possession football that made them a title contender last season. If the defence is relatively satisfying (4 clean sheets in 5 league games), new signings Rafael and Yanga Mbiwa have been mostly average in the back. They’ll both miss out the Olympico, pushing Fournier towards a tried-and-tested backline with Bedimo, Bisevac, Umtiti and Jallet. OL’s main weakness has been its midfield. Gonalons’ still far from his best level, while Tolisso and especially Ferri have struggled early after enjoying breakout seasons last year. Valbuena’s been one of the most consistent performers, but can’t do it all in midfield. OL’s costliest signing of the summer, Spanish mid Sergi Darder, could make his debut but probably isn’t ready to go a full 90 minutes. He could help a team that has struggled when facing a high pressure, like against Rennes or Gent. Up top, Lacazette’s goal drought continues and his partnership with Beauvue still doesn’t seem very natural. The former Guingamp man has shown glimpses of brilliance, with a wonderful goal against Caen and a late game-winner in Guingamp. But he has tended to disappear from games a bit too much, and it’s obvious his partners still need to understand better how he likes to receive the ball and how he times his runs.

Likely starting 11:


Jallet, Yanga-Mbiwa, Umtit, Morel

Ferri, Gonalons, Tolisso


Lacazette, Beavue

At the Velodrome OM certainly have history on their side having won 20 games to Lyon’s 10, with another 15 games ending in draws. 3 of the last five games have been draws including last years 0-0 which came after emphatic wins for both Olympion’s before hand, 4-2 to OM in 2013/14 after a 4-1 reverse in 2012/13. There is a great deal riding on the outcome for  both teams to give a statement of intent which could see them get their season on track.

Allez l’OM