Time: 21:00 (20:00 UK)
Venue: Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Last meeting – 20/03/11 – OM 2-1 PSG (OM: Heinze, A. Ayew. PSG: Chantome)
Olympique Marseille: Home: P7, W: 3, D: 3, L: 1
Paris Saint-Germain: Away: P6, W: 3, D: 3
Olympique Marseille return to Ligue 1 action this weekend against table topping Paris Saint-Germain, after a bitterly disappointing appearance in the Champions League mid-week. The tepid, disjointed performance against Olympiakos summed up most of what OM have done wrong this season. Marseille lacked cohesion in attack and communication in defence which led to Olympiakos’ late winning goal, and without a drastic improvement in performance there can only be one expected outcome this weekend, the question becoming, ‘how many goals will PSG win by?’
The good work Marseille had put in to being unbeaten in 7 Ligue 1 games, was brought to an end via a Diawarra own goal against Montpellier in week 14. The confidence that wins against Evian, Ajaccio, Dijon and Nice had brought about came crashing down with the defeat, along with the patience of the OM fans again. This was evident with the audible boos at the end of OM’s Champions League game midweek. Once again Deschamps’ position is being questioned, and surely his public spat with Andre-Pierre Gignac hasn’t helped an already dampened team morale. Deschamps now has the unenviable task of motivating and moulding an unconfident, underperforming set of individuals into a team capable of beating the league’s leading team who have only suffered defeat twice this season.
The positive news for Marseille is that the second defeat of the season for PSG came last week against Ligue 1 strugglers AS Nancy Lorraine at the Parc des Princes. The other positive may be that PSG golden boy Javier Pastore has only managed 2 goals in his last 6 games, having previously netted 4 in 4 between weeks 5 and 8. However, with Kevin Gameiro and Nene having netted 14 between them, it won’t be all plain sailing for the OM defence. I see PSG’s weak point being their defence, even if they have only conceded 12 goals in 14 games. They have shown that they can be susceptible to set pieces in games, providing teams with chances, even if other teams have failed to convert these into goals. OM will hope they can employ some of their set piece experts (Valbuena and Cheyrou) to test the PSG resilience, the presence of big players such as Diarra and Diawara should also occupy the mind of the PSG defenders.
With a lack of fluidity in Marseille’s attack, the key area offensive strategy is likely to come from set pieces, however, this also leaves Marseille vulnerable to one of PSG’s biggest strengths, the counter attack. Depending on the starting line- up adopted by Antoine Kambouare, PSG can demonstrate deadly pace down either flank, supplying their forward line with crosses from deep or from the by-line, as well as playing dangerous through balls in behind the defensive line for their strikers to run onto. Both of these attacking styles have caught Marseille’s often lumbering centre backs out a number of times this season, and although Azpilicueta and Morel can offer support to an attacking OM side, they have often left the defence short at times too. Marseille’s likely starting line-up in a 4-4-2 formation: Mandanda – Azpilicueta, Diawara, NKoulou, Morel – Cheyrou, Diarra, Amalfitano, A. Ayew – J. Ayew, Remy. With this starting line-up, a shuffle of positions is likely to help Deschamps in the second half with Lucho and Valbuena able to liven the side and crowd, putting pressure on PSG players with their adventurous furrows forward, as well as allowing for an change in formation to either 4-3-3 or 4-5-1.
As with some of the previous games between the two sides there will be no away fans present. If the trend of results also continues, then les phocéens will be much the happier having won the previous 2 home games at the Velodrome (1-0 & 2-1). Unfortunately, as result of both sides respective starts to the season and Marseilles on-going, off-field troubles I can only hope that OM manage to pick up a point. However, my predicted result is OM 2-3 QSG.
Swanny (@OMarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)