Time: 19:00 (UK)
Venue: Stade François Coty, Ajaccio, Corsica
Last meeting – 22/10/11 Marseille 2-0 Ajaccio (A. Ayew 2)
Ajaccio home form: P13, W4, D5, L5 (18th)
Marseille away form: P12, W4, D3, L5 (7th)
Having began 2012 in unbeaten inspired form, Marseille have failed to win any of their last 5 Ligue 1 games and have now lost 3 in a row, failing to score in any of those games. Marseille face a difficult trip to Corsica as they prepare to play their 5th game in just 13 days and hope to end this abysmal run of form in the ligue. OM’s opponenets, AC Ajaccio, also started 2012 well, clawing their way up to 15th in the table after 4 consecutive wins, however, since then their solitary victory over Dijon in week 25 has seen them slip back into the relegation places.
When the sides last met, in October, OM were just beginning their fight-back and picked up a 2-0 victory thanks to a brace from Andre Ayew. In truth the score-line could have and should have been higher as OM had 36 shots on goal with ACA ‘keeper Guillermo Ochoa making no less than 13 saves during the match. Marseille inability to finish goal-scoring chances has been a problem all season and has become a prominent feature in the last 3 ligue 1 games, however, les phoceens will hope the return of Loic Remy can help remedy this issue.
Marseille Team selection –
With fatigue and injury robbing Didier Deschamps of a number of his starting 11 recently there are 3 shining lights ahead of this game with the potential return of Stephane Mbia, Loic Remy and Mathieu Valbuena. Marseille’s top scorer and assister have been sorely missed in recent games and their inclusion in the travelling squad alone may give some tired player an important lift.
The physio’s room has had another visitor this week though as Andre Ayew damaged his shoulder in the Evian defeat and joins Gignac who won’t travel either, although Ayew is expected to travel to Milan for the return Champions League fixture next week.
Deschamps must make the important decision of if he should immediately put Remy and Valbuena back into the starting line-up. These two players need to be at their best against Inter if OM are to qualify, however there are some worried that neither are 100% fit. As a result Deschamps may start both on the bench and give them a 25-30 minute run-out at the end. Given the weakness of the defence in recent matches Mbia could start for the first time since week 20 in a central defensive partnership with Nkoulou, who along with Fanni have looked the more consistent of defenders in recent games. If Marseille do opt to start without Valbuena and Remy it could see a rather defensive central midfield partnership of Diarra and Kabore with Cheyrou dropping into left midfield, as he has been required to do so a number of times this season. With the return of Remy this could be the enigmatic Brandao’s last chance to impress seeing that his form and effort seem to have wained somewhat in recent games. Possible Marseille line-up:
Ajaccio dangers –
1) Eduardo. Having signed from Ligue 2 side RC Lens, during the January transfer window, Eduardo, has made an excellent start to his Ajaccio career, notching up 4 goals and 1 assist in just 7 appearances. He has shown he has a good first touch, strength, skill and composure with his goals this season. Marseille’s defence must close him down quickly, putting him under pressure to avoid him running at them and potentially playing others in too.
2) Shots. As obvious as it sound, Marseille must stop Ajaccio shooting. Ajaccio average 1 in 3 shots being on target, just less than Evian, and Evian proved mid-week that with good finishing it is more than possible to beat Marseille playing counter-attacking football. This may be how Ajaccio set out for the game and they will look to punish an OM defence with every opportunity they get.
This game will provide a test of mental strength rather than physical strength or skill for Marseille, as they will look to give themselves a much needed boost ahead of the all-important Champions League game next week. However, despite Ajaccio being near the foot of the table, at this stage in the season that offers its own problems. There are very few teams in Ligue 1 this season with ‘nothing to play for’. There are at least 8 teams fighting against relegation, and another 6 fighting for a European place, as it stands there are no Ligue 1 teams safe in mid-table obscurity. Make no mistake about it, Ajaccio will be up for this game and a win could help put 6 points between themselves and the bottom two (Auxerre and Sochaux).
Predicted score: Ajaccio 2-1 Marseille
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)