Sun 07/10/12 – 20:00 (UK)
Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Ref. – Tony Chapron
Marseille are looking to get their ligue form back in business in the first, of at least 3, Le Classique’s of the season. The 1-4 defeat to Valenciennes last week came as a huge shock to all and abruptly ended Marseille’s perfect start to the season. However, while psg where defeated by Porto in midweek European competitions, Marseille thrashed Cypriot opposition, AEL, 5-1 at the Velodrome, a result that should restore some of the squad’s confidence ahead of this weekend’s key fixture. The same fixture last season came amid Marseille’s one bright patch of results and OM sent the Parisians packing after a 3-0 victory, courtesy of goals from Remy, Amalfitano and Andre Ayew.
Having started the season well, picking up wins in all ligue games through a mixture of good play, grit and determination, the Valenciennes defeat came as a huge blow to OM. The victory over AEL, although not convincing in parts, certainly showed just how clinical Marseille can be with converting chances, something they will need to show again against psg.
After missing out on Thursday’s game as a precautionary measure, both Cheyrou and Amalfitano return to the squad, and probably the starting 11. The full squad consists of: Mandanda, Bracigliano, Fanni, Abdallah, NKoulou, Mendes, Morel, Mbow, Kabore, Cheyrou, Abdullah, Valbuena, Amalfitano, A. Ayew, Raspentino, Gignac, J. Ayew and Remy.
Having returned from injury Abdallah may be given a starting berth at right back, whereas on the left, despite a very impressive debut against AEL, Lucas Mendes may me dropped for the more experienced Jeremy Morel. Cheyrou and Abdullah will make up Marseille’s defensive midfield with the attacking 4 coming through the restored Amalfitano, Valbuena, Andre Ayew and Gignac.
One of Marseille’s best attacking threats this season has been Morgan Amalfitano. He has been more dedicated to taking on players, dribbling past them and firing in some excellent crosses. In most games when he has started well, OM have targeted their oppositions left-flank and psg should be no exception. Despite his strengths, Maxwell, could be a player that Amalfitano enjoys some success against. Should Maxwell, cause problems then the support of Valbuena will assist OM in their attacking positions with his ability to drive through into the channels, or drop behind our wide midfielders and provide a cross from a deeper position.
Who are they? –
After a summer of spending the sort of money that most clubs can only dream about nowadays, Carlo Ancelotti is finally reaping the rewards of this as psg have remained undefeated this season, despite a rather stuttering start. In the 3 draws that opened their season against Lorient, Ajaccio and Bordeaux, psg struggled to create and take their goal scoring chances, something that they have since made up for in abundance. During this period, they also appeared to be rather shaky in defence, often relying on the dependable Sirigu to rescue them, however since the inclusion of Thiago Silva in the squad, there appears to be a little more defensive stability from the Parisians.
With Ancelotti’s 4-3-1-2 formation, a great deal of the psg play often comes down the centre of the field, and with players like Pastore, Matuidi, Menez and Ibrahimovic at his disposal, who can blame him? This should provide a really interesting battle between the sides, as Marseille have generally attacked with width this season and then defended as a more compact, central unit, pushing the opposition wide. This is something that psg will have to overcome is they are to pick up only their second victory in 9 years at the Velodrome.
The main threat for psg is undoubtedly charismatic mercenary, ahem (sorry), charismatic talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Having won the domestic league for almost every team he has played for, ‘Ibra’ has intentions of ensuring that he adds the Ligue 1 title to his list in his debut French season. The tall Swede has 8 goals to his name this campaign, 7 in the ligue. The problem he will pose for OM, will depend on how OM press psg further up the field. If psg are put under pressure into their own half, an escape route might be a long, high ball up the pitch, which Ibrahimovic is more than capable of winning in the air before laying off team mates. In these circumstances, Fanni, being the taller, should look to win the ball against Ibra, as this also allows the more positionally astute Nkoulou, to track any runs from team-mates latching onto passes or flick-ons. If the ball is played to Ibra on the ground, then the more ‘composed’ tackler, Nkoulou could look to get close to him and make sure that by the end of the game Ibrahimovic certainly does know who Nkoulou is.
As mentioned earlier, the inclusion of Thiago Silva, has certainly helped to improve the look of the psg defence, however, one of their criticisms, has still been the amount of opportunities they allow the opposition to create. Despite their reputation, Marseille have actually been quite clinical in games this season, the games against Evian and AEL showing that perfectly. Marseille playing to their own strengths of attacking width and defensive constriction should provide psg with enough to worry about.
Despite the fact that the two teams provide a number of opposites for each other both on and off the field at present, I hope that during this game the two teams don’t simply cancel each other out. Also, despite the fact that this game won’t be aired live in the UK, it could provide Ligue 1 with some much needed positive publicity as a number of their live games this season have hardly been classics. In this, Le Classique, the top of the ligue awaits the victors, along with much needed bragging rights, and confidence ahead of the Coupe de la Ligue match in 3 weeks’ time in Paris. This will be a close game, but just as the occasion got to psg last season, the mentality and stability of Marseille this season along with the occasion, might just be enough to see OM through.
Predicted score: Marseille 2v1 psg
Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)
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