26/08/12 – 16:00 (UK)
Stade de la Mosson et du Mondial 98, Montpellier
Ref. – Ruddy Buquet
Marseille go into this week’s game looking for a 3rd successive ligue win in a row, something not achieved since January, against last season’s Ligue 1 champions, Montpellier. Montpellier have struggled with life after Giroud, only managing a draw against Toulouse in week 1, then suffering a last minute defeat at the hands of FC Lorient in week 2. It had been well documented that many expected Marseille to struggle again this year, with a number of players expected to leave. Life after Deschamps, has started well for OM though managing 4 wins and a draw from their opening 5 fixtures. This week is likely to provide both teams with their toughest test so far.
Fresh on the back of losing right-back Cesar Azpilicueta to Chelsea, they are able to welcome back an almost match-fit Loic Remy to their squad that travelled west to Montpellier. The squad consisted of: Mandanda, Bracigliano, Fanni, Nkoulou, Morel, Mango, Mbow, Mbia, Cheyrou, Kabore, Abdullah, Amalfitano, Valbuena, A. Ayew, Gignac, J. Ayew, Remy, Raspentino.
Elie Baup will be likely to welcome back Benoit Cheyrou to the starting 11, having sat out the Europa League win over FC Sheriff due to a suspension. This will mean that Abdullah will drop to the bench, where Andre Ayew and Loic Remy will be likely to start on the basis that neither is fully match fit yet. The skill, quality and experience of both A. Ayew and Remy could be called upon if the OM game-plan is not working against Montpellier and Baup should make any necessary changes early in the 2nd half to allow Marseille to fully adapt to a likely change in formation such a change would bring.
Marseille will set up in their favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, which has allowed them to keep a great deal of possession, a typical feature of last season’s play, however, with Gignac starting they have now a player who is capable of holding onto the ball and bringing in other players therefore successfully linking up play between midfield and attack, something they struggled with last season.
Andre-Pierre Gignac has been one of Marseille’s star men, having netted 3 times already in just 5 games. A strong pre-season has seen Gignac start this season looking fitter, sharper and keener in games. As a result he has managed to find positions both between the opposition midfield a dn defensive line, as well as in ‘the channels’, i.e. behind the defence toward the touchlines on the edge of the 18 yard box. Gignac’s selfless play has also brought a number of teammates into play, creating opportunities for Valbuena and J. Ayew particularly to run dangerously into the box with the ball.
Likely starting lineup:
Who are they? –
Montpellier became almost everyone’s second favourite Ligue 1 team last season as they pushed PSG all the way, eventually claiming their first Ligue 1 title on an exhilarating final day of the season. Having accepted the loss of star player Olivier Giroud, Motpellier have invested the money in the exciting Emanuel Herrera, along with Anthiny Mounier and the dependable Daniel Congre.
Montpellier will be looking to keep and incredible undefeated home record going, and should improve on their slow start soon enough. Marseille’s defence will need to be wary of through balls (a comment made continually last season and again during friendlies this year). Cheyrou and Kabore should provide some defensive support to minimise any individual attacks through the centre, pushing Montpellier’s play wide. This would result in them having to play crosses into the box where the height of Nkoulou and Mbia along with the presence of Mandanda should ensure this doesn’t allow any free headers on goal.
Another of Montpellier’s star players from last season, Younes Belhanda, is expected to be fit to start his first game of the season having only played a few minutes in their defeat at Lorient last week. The enigmatic forward can play in a number of positions and is capable of creating chances for others, as well as creating them for himself and finishing them. Depending on his starting position, it would be helpful for Marseille’s defensive midfielders, Kabore and Cheyrou to stay close. As mentioned earlier, OM’s best chance will be to push the Montpellier play wide.
This match has the potential to be an incredibly exciting game with Marseille wanting to attack to continue their fine run of form, and Montpellier wishing to do the same to kick-start their title defence. Both teams will be likely to create chances, the difference may well come in how efficient and clinical either team is. There should be goals though, and I think the deciding factor will be in the last line of either teams defence, their goalkeepers. In this department Marseille have the edge, and Mandanda, if he is on form, will just give Marseille the edge in this tight game.
Predicted score: Montpellier 2-3 Marseille.
Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)
Weekend’s other games
Evian 1-1 Lyon
Nice 2-2 Lille
Rennes 3-2 Bastia
Valenciennes 3-0 Ajaccio
Reims 1-0 Sochaux
Nancy 0-1 Toulouse
Troyes 2-2 Lorient
Saint-Etienne (Sun 16:00) Brest
PSG (Sun 20:00) Bordeaux