Time: 21:00 (20:00 UK)
Venue: Stade de la Route de Lorient, Rennes
Last meeting – 10/09/11 Marseille 0-1 Rennes (Kembo-Ekoku)
Stade Rennes home form: P9, W4, D5, L0, F, 14, A9, Pts 17 (12th)
Marseille away form: P9, W3, D3, L3, F13, A135, Pts 12 (7th)
Two extra time goals were required by Marseille to see off Ligue 2’s Le Havre in their last outing, with Amalfitano and Remy ensuring that they progressed to the next round of the Coupe de France. This Sunday OM will need to do the hard work in 90 minutes as they look to make it 10 games unbeaten against Rennes, who are currently undefeated at home. Marseille’s resurgence since mid-October has seen them win 8 of 10 Ligue 1 games and their current run of form has lead to 8 wins and 1 draw from 9 games, scoring a superb 23 goals and conceding a mere 4 in the process.
When the two sides last met in September at the Velodrome, Rennes registered a 1-0 win which pushed Marseille further south in the ligue standings, to 17th, however as Marseille prepare to head north to Brittany they enter the game in a far healthier ligue position and in far superior form than last time. Marseille sit only 1 point behind 5th placed Rennes and a win would see OM reach their highest standing yet of the season regardless of results elsewhere.
The African Cup of Nations has hit both teams hard with Marseille’s Diawarra, Kabore and both Ayew brothers travelling on international duties, along with Mangane, Boye, Pitroipa and Hadji who are away for Rennes. I would expect Deschamps to call upon much the same team that defeated Lille two weeks ago and Le Havre last week with the main change coming in the shape of Fanni replacing the injured M’Bia in defence. The likelihood is that Marseille will stick with their 4-4-2 formation, with Cheyrou dropping slightly deeper in a central midfield partnership with Lucho. Also, in the line-up we could see Brandao start, with Deschamps perhaps looking to build up his confidence even more after he netted against Le Havre. Valbuena will likely be given the run of the park by Deschamps as he looks to exploit Rennes weakness of defending against pacey wide players providing crosses and through balls, as shown when conceding in games against Saint-Etienne and Evian this season. Marseille’s probable line up:
In this game it is even more important that Marseille are very careful with their high defensive line, where, although has worked well against other teams in the past, every defender must work as one defensive unit. This is naturally a great deal easier when the 4 defenders play with each other week in week out, however, as pointed out earlier Marseille don’t have that luxury ahead of week 21.
Here are the thoughts of Rennes fan Bastien Leclair, with a more accurate account of the threat that Rennes possess.
Rennes is enjoying a positive run of four games without conceding a goal, including three successes (against Bordeaux, Nancy and Caen) and a penalty-shootout qualification in the Cup against Nice. The Bretons are also unbeaten at home this season, and they will have a chance to leave Marseille four points behind in case of a victory.
Just like Marseille, Rennes will come into this game with a seriously weakened squad with no less than seven players missing including Jonathan Pitroipa and Benoit Costil, who arguably won the first leg for Rennes back in September with his multiple saves.
This time, the path to success for Rennes could rest on the shoulders of a man in particular: Jires Kembo. The young winger is having the best season of his career so far, and has already managed eight goals in the league this season. With Montano, new recruit Mevlut Erding and Yacine Brahimi completing the front-line and M’Vila and Feret having truly found the key to inch-accurate vertical passing, Rennes will be eager to test the solidity of a Marseille defence and midfield also plagued by injuries and international call-ups.
And with the pace and power characteristic to Stade Rennes’ forward line, this could be a paying strategy.
(Bastien Leclair manages the Stade Rennais English website which can be found at http://www.stade-rennais-online.com/-English-version-.html or you can follow him on twitter @ Puchkin_B)
This game has great potential to be an entertaining match and with both teams attacking style of play there’s a good chance of a number of goals. Marseille will hope that their patched up defence can continue to keep relatively watertight, and they can attack the Rennes defence that have leaked 10 goals against Marseille in the previous 6 meetings. The inclusion of Erding in the Rennes starting line-up may act as a physiological advantage for the hosts, who will undoubtedly look to him to lift the team and fans alike and make a immediate, positive impact on his debut. Marseille are unlikely to forget that Erding has only netted once in the Ligue this season and is likely to be lacking in a little match-sharpness and fitness.
With the right results Marseille could end the weekend as high as 3rd in the ligue standings, putting them in even more of a confident position ahead of the difficult trip to 4th placed Lyon on Sunday week. Prediction; a lively encounter with many chances and goals – Stade Rennes 1-2 Marseille (which probably means it’ll be a 0-0 draw!)
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)