Time: 19:00 (18:00 UK)
Venue: Stade Veledrome, Marseille
Olympique Marseille return to action at the Stade Velodrome this Sunday sat in 9th place in the league standings. After a poor start to Ligue 1 this season, OM are now unbeaten in 6 league matches, and on the back of an encouraging draw away at Arsenal in the Champions League midweek, this is probably the first game of the season that OM will enter with any real confidence. Nice, however, will look to overcome their own poor start to the season which has seen them only win twice, both at home against struggling AC Ajaccio and Bordeaux.
After fielding a 4-4-2 formation against Ajaccio, RC Lens and Dijon, the suggestion would be that Didier Deschamps returns to this formation, having opted to crowd the midfield in an attempt to nullify Arsenal’s possession game at The Emirates. This change in formation has seen OM pick up 3 wins from 3, scoring 9 goals and conceding 4. There are no suspension issues for OM heading into this game, however, it has been reported that Fanni will be out for up to 4 weeks after picking up a broken toe in the game against Arsenal. This will ultimately mean that Didier Deschamps will have to re-shuffle the back 4 again, and OM will lose some of the attacking support that Fanni provides, the likes of which led to a number of chances against Dijon in week 12. Lucho will likely start as a sub again, with his cameo roles still not bringing about the kind of performances that would warrant his replacement of anyone in the midfield. Likely line up: Mandanda – Azpilicueta, NKoulou, Diawarra, Morel – Valbuena, Kabore, Cheyrou, A. Ayew – Remy, J. Ayew. I have replaced Amalfitano with Valbuena, as Valbuena is more likely to provide passages of play that will link with the strikers, whereas in previous games Amalfitano relied on the support of Fanni to do this.
Nice’s main danger man will be Eric Mouloungui, the striker hitting form recently, having scored 3 goals in the last 4 games. His goals against Bordeaux and Sochaux demonstrated his ability to be used as a main target man, whereby he can get into space, take on defenders and has proven to be a clinical finisher. Mouloungui’s ability to play of the back of the defence will also allow Nice to play cautiously, likely playing 5 in midfield in an attempt to frustrate OM’s passing game. Manager, and former player, Eric Roy, will expect Nice to improve their second half concentration levels, having given away 10 goals in the final 60 minutes of matches this season. Nice have shown that they can get themselves into goal-scoring opportunities, even if all of their goals haven’t come from open play. They pressure teams into making mistakes and rash challenges, something that has allowed defender Fabian Monzon to become the clubs joint top goal-scorer, having netted 3 penalties in the 11 games he has started in.
The outcome of this game will likely depend on how much resilience Nice perform with. Any positive forward play is liable to affect OM’s confidence and lead to an increase in misplaced passes, poor positioning and communication, something that was evident for 30 minutes in the second half when Dijon scored and equalised last week. An early goal for OM would help settle these nerves. A repeat of last season’s 4-2 score-line with an A. Ayew hat-trick and J. Ayew goal would be welcomed, giving Marseille 3 wins from 3 before their tricky trip to 2nd in the table Montpellier next week.
My prediction is a 2-0 win for Marseille.
Swanny (@OMarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)