Sun 23/12/12 – 20:00 (UK – Live on ESPN)
Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Ref – Olivier Thual
As psg celebrate finishing as winter champions, something they managed last year with 2 more points, Marseille play their final game before the break looking to finish with 7 more points and 3 places higher than last season. Sunday’s opponents, Saint-Etienne, have remained fairly consistent themselves this season and currently occupy 9th place. Sainte’s solid early season form has only recently come undone, having only picked up 1 win in their last 6 outings. So far on their travels ASSE have only won twice, however one of those was at psg, so they can manage when it matters.
The latest news on the team was that Amalfitano has recovered sufficiently from his injury against Toulouse in time to be included in the squad, Diawara is also back in contention. Cheyrou is surprisingly out, as is Abdallah. Kabore will be most likely to step straight in in place of Cheyrou, with hopes that he will improve on his previous outings for OM. Gignac looks like he could have reclaimed his place in the starting 11 after coming off the bench and netting a stunning winner against Toulouse. Having failed to score in 5 matches, Jordan Ayew may have had his last start in a while.
The match-day squad is made up of: Mandanda, Bracigliano, Fanni, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel, Diawara, N’Diaye, Abdullah, Kabore, Barton, Amalfitano, Valbuena, Raspentino, A. Ayew, Remy, Gignac, J. Ayew.
Although Diawara returns to the squad Baup may look for consistency in his back 4 line up with Fanni, Nkoulou, Mendes and Morel all performing well against Toulouse last week. Gignac’s return against his old club was marked with a superb individual goal, but his performance showed OM what they have missed in recent weeks too. His hard work and endeavour allows him to drift wide, supporting the midfield and wide players. His strength also gives him an advantage of Jordan Ayew, who fails to hold up the ball too often, and has lost possession by the time team-mates arrive in support. Both jAyew and fellow sub-striker Loic Remy may make late appearances, many expecting that this may be the last time Remy is seen at the Velodrome for the home side.
Predicted line-up and formation:
Who are they? –
Christophe Galtier brings les verts to the Velodrome looking to end the year in 5th place, should they win against Marseille. This will be no easy task for Sainte, having failed to win in their last 4 games, they have also failed to find the net in that run of form. History is also against ASSE as they have only won 8 of the previous 47 Ligue 1 meetings at the Velodrome, with the last win coming all the way back in 1979 as they beat OM 5-3. If that poor record is to be amended, Galtier needs his players on song before this Christmas break.
Saint-Etienne are likely to play with a similar formation to OM, a 4-2-3-1, and with their 4 attacking players they possess some incredible pace and have attacked teams successfully throughout this season through counter-attacks and probing down the wings. Thankfully for OM, ASSE are missing ex-phoceén, Brandao, who would hold up play and bring in his team-mates, and so they are left with the raw talents of Aubameyang, Gradel, Cohade and Hamouma. (On a personal note, I am glad to see Brandao doing well elsewhere, as he served the club extremely well when called upon last season).
With the striking abilities of both teams, the main battle during this game may come from either teams 2 defensive midfielders. Barton and Kabore for OM, Clement and Guilavogui for ASSE. Jeremy Clement against Joey Barton should be an intriguing battle with Clement’s defensive abilities likely to be getting in the way of Barton’s attacking threat. As Barton will be the more attacking of OM’s defensive midfield duo, his runs forward and link up play with OM’s attackers will see him enter Clement territory. Clement will undoubtedly look to protect the defence and Ruffier’s goal, as a goal conceded would most likely lead to a defeat. Expect Clement to sit deep potentially making a 5 man defensive unit if required.
The attacking threat that Saint-Etienne possess cannot be underestimated, just because they have not been successful recently. Aubameyang in particular has the ability to change the game in an instant, and I would feel much safer with the quicker pairing of Nkoulou and Mendes playing, than the inclusion of sometimes ‘lumbering’ Diawara.
Just as last week’s game was a good time to play Toulouse, hopefully this will be a good time to play Saint-Etienne. Current and historical form is on Marseille’s side, however, football doesn’t always follow the expected script. The first goal in this game is likely to settle the result. Marseille have epically self-destructed 3 times, twice at home, when conceding, and Saint-Etienne have only scored once in five games, so a single goal could win it. This could be an exhilarating game with 2 very similar teams, however, the game is live on ESPN, so if it follows the usual script we’re all in for another Ligue 1 bore-fest.
Predicted result: Marseille 2-1 Saint-Etienne
Allez l’OM (Swanny @MarseilleUK)
Other Ligue 1 Games:
Brest 0-3 psg
Lille 4-1 Montpellier
Lyon 3-0 Nice
Bastia 4-2 Nancy
Bordeaux 0-0 Troyes
Ajaccio 2-4 Rennes
Lorient 2v2 Reims
Valenciennes v Evian
Toulouse v Sochaux