Marseille welcome defending champions Montpellier to le Stade Velodrome for what should be a spicy south coast derby match live on Canal+. OM didn’t start their 2013 ligue campaign very well and they lost badly 1-3 away to Sochaux last weekend. Elie Baup’s men are now situated down in 3rd position on 38pts, although PSG’s draw last weekend and Lyon’s 0-0 at home to Evian last night have been a surprising welcome boost. OM know that victory here would move them just 1 point off the top of the table, so the incentive is there to work their way back upwards again.
Montpellier travel here on the back of a 2-0 home win against Lorient last weekend, but they fell to a defeat by the same scoreline away to Rennes in the midweek Coupe de la Ligue. That loss was a major blow for Rene Girard’s men who look destined for just midtable mediocrity this season following a poor start to the campaign. The visitors don’t actually come here in the worst of ligue form and have won 5 of their last 7 ligue 1 fixtures. But most of their problems have been on the road, especially facing bigger teams.
OM meanwhile, have definitely had home issues. For some reason they have failed to play particularly well in front of their own fans this season, its difficult to know exactly why. They have only won 2 of their last 5 at the Velodrome, and both of those were unconvincing 1-0s against Sainte and Lille. With the exception of a couple of horror shows like the VA result, or Sochaux last weekend, Baup’s boys have seemed far more confident and comfortable on their travels.
Tactically, one of the big issues that OM have is facing teams who counter attack at the Velodrome. Since early November, sides like Lyon, Lorient, Lille and Sainte have all employed a counter attacking philosophy, and whilst not all have gone home with some points, they at least played very well and showed up OM’s deficiencies. There is no doubt that Marseille are more comfortable facing defensive sides who prefer to play a slower tempo of game. Baup would probably prefer an outfit come here and literally ‘park the bus’ rather than trying to be more attacking. That wont be the case with Montpellier, although they are fortunately a side who have struggled to know their own identity at times this season and who have undergone moments of crisis and low confidence.
Tactics and formation
Marseille should employ an attack minded 4-2-3-1 here. Barton and Cheyrou will likely be used as box to box midfielders, with neither employed in much of an anchor role. Valbuena, as ever, will roam around from his AMID spot and pop up in a range of attacking positions. The Ayew’s will likely retain their place in the team, although Amalfitano could be an option on the right wing if Baup prefers. The real question marks are in defence. Baup has come out and supported under fire Jermey Morel this week, which makes me think he will retain his spot at LDEF. However, the coach also revealed he would like to get Lucas Mendes into the team if possible. He could start instead of Diawara who looked poor against Sochaux and he’s also carrying a slight injury. So overall, my prediction is that the central defensive partnership will be Mendes and Nkoulou.
They travel here with a depleted squad, and one which is also going to have to recover from the letdown of a midweek CDL defeat in both a physical and mental way. The visitors are especially depleted in midfield where a number of players are missing – Estrada, Saihi, Marveaux, Stambouli. Right back Gary Bocaly is still on the sidelines too along with the long term Ait Fana. El Kaoutari is away on African Nations duty with Belhanda. Montpellier will have to make do with the ageing dinosaur Romain Pitau and rookie Bryan Dabo to compete for them in the middle of the park, which will be a worry for their fans. MHSC do still have a decent looking defence on paper though, and their attack force cant be underestimated despite the loss of Belhanda. Girard likes a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 variation of formation and I predict he will use the same XI that beat Lorient last week, except Pitau comes in for the injured Estrada.
The key battleground area in this match is undoubtedly midfield. This could be the sort of match in which the likes of Joey Barton and Bruno Cheyrou completely dominate proceedings. No disrespect, but I would fully expect them both to overpower the likes of Pitau & Dabo, or whoever else plays in that position. I have seen how Montpellier desperately struggled when light on midfielders against both Lyon and Lille, its affected them badly and this is a factor which cant be underestimated.
Analysis and prediction
Marseille are odds on favourites for this match with the bookies. At first glance, this price seems relatively poor, but when you delve into more detail, its clear to see OM have a number of things to their advantage. Firstly, they’ve had a full week to recover since their last match. Compare this to Montpellier who have a depleted squad riddled with injuries at the moment and who played on Wednesday night away to Rennes in a cup semi final. OM have a big physical advantage in this match and I also think they have a mental one. Everyone will be desperate to return to winning ways following the embarrassment of Sochaux last weekend. I think everyone will give just that little bit more extra motivation which will be crucial. Montpellier of course will be desperate to get a result here too, but can they recover mentally after such a let down of losing a cup semi final? I’m not so sure they‘ll be able to.
Under normal circumstances a draw facing Montpellier home or away wouldn’t be the worst result in football. However, in this instance I’d be disappointed if OM didn’t pocket the 3 points, it’s a great opportunity and time to face MHSC which they cant let slip by. I’m confident OM will recognise this and obtain victory, this feels like a very favourable match-up at the moment..
Prediction :- Marseille 3-1 Montpellier