Sun 24/02/13 – 20:00 (UK – Live on ESPN Classic)
Parc des Princes, Paris
Ref. – Fredy Fautrel
Had this game been scheduled to take place last weekend the result may have been a forgone conclusion in most people’s eyes. Having only won one of 5 games since the winter break, Marseille’s unlikely title challenge looked to be over as they sat 8 points away from the seemingly unstoppable PSG, who had not suffered defeat since the beginning of December. But a late winner from Rod Fanni for OM and a shock defeat for PSG at the hands of relegation threatened Sochaux has seemingly seen the Ligue 1 title race thrown back open. A win for Marseille would put them within 2 points of PSG, who could be equalled on points by Lyon too. The 3rd classique of the season and perhaps the most important.
After struggling for consistent form since the winter break the last minute win over Valenciennes may give Marseille a much needed confidence boost ahead of Sunday’s game against psg. Lacking their usual clinical finishing, Marseille squandered a number of good chances in a game that ultimately sounded a great deal closer than it actually was. It is unlikely that psg will concede the number of chances they offered to Sochaux to another team, so Gignac and co best make sure they have packed their shooting boots for the trip to the capital.
Elie Baup is without the services of Jordan Ayew (suspension), Morgan Amalfitano (injury) and Benoit Cheyrou (thigh injury), but can welcome back Kassim Abdallah to bolster his substitution and defensive options. Other than this he has a full strength squad at his disposal. The full squad thathas travelled to Paris is made up of: Mandanda, Samba, Fanni, Abdallah, Diawara, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel, Aloe, Romao, Barton, Abdullah, Valbuena, A. Ayew, Kadir, Gignac, Sougou and Anani. Having impressed in games so far Romao and Kadir will be likely to keep their places hoping to continue to improve their understanding of each other and team mates even further.
Who are they? –
First are the thoughts of psg fan Ross Mackiewicz (Follow on twitter @RossMackiewicz) –
‘Putting the rivalry aside, this is an exciting time for both clubs as we embark on the start of a double-bill in the league and cup. It really is a treat for fans of French football in general and one they should relish. From a Parisien perspective we need to bounce back after – I would say – our worst performance of the season away to Sochaux last weekend. You could tell the midweek game in Valencia had taken its toll and we looked a shell of the team that played some exhilarating football on that night. Pressure is on us though, a win for OM will put them three points off us and that will certainly put them well and truly back in the title hunt. It is a defining one for both clubs in truth. A win for either will have implications and Lyon will be watching with interest also. I just hope the possible debut of David Beckham does not make any minds wander in the PSG dressing room and attention is solely fixated on the job in hand. Marseille will be hoping otherwise of course. May the best team win!’
Having overcome media-spun crisis after crisis this season after the odd poor result, Marseille take on psg amid full flow of the Beckham driven media circus as the ‘angel’ of English football looks set to make his psg debut at some point on Sunday. As many have eluded to, Beckham offers any club a number of things; experience, class, skill; however, it is difficult to see what he adds to the current psg first team that any other player wouldn’t offer with a little more pace and exuberance.
Confirmed absentees for Carlo Ancelotti are Thiago Motta, Thiago Silva and Mamadou Sakho. These leave psg a little short at the back with the likely centre back pairing of Armand and Alex lacking in pace.
The main danger psg still possess comes in the form of Ibra. Although it is unlikely that OM will have improved their defensive discipline in the space of a week, the quality of Ibra will not have been lost on Nkoulou and Mandanda since their encounter at the Velodrome in October. His awareness allowed him to beat Nkoulou to the ball to stab home his opening goal, and his power drove home his second direct from a free kick that (if you were harsh you would say) the wall should have blocked or Mandanda could have got a hand to. As shown a number of times though Ibra is as susceptible as our own Joey Barton to allowing the ‘red mist’ to descend. Perhaps as Ibra drops deep it may be Barton who gets close to him and works some of his ‘British charm’ on the big guy in order to try and throw him off his game. It would be a poor decision if this was the only plan that Baup had so thankfully there are a few other areas that OM can look to exploit.
As Sochaux demonstrated last week, psg are often vulnerable to counter attacks (this was how Gignac netted his first at the Velodrome). Sochaux also demonstrated psg’s defensive frailties through awareness of positions and movement. The space afforded to them in the psg box when players drifted wide and then attacked through the centre was hauntingly familiar to the way OM have been attacked in the past.
As MarseilleUK’s Steve eluded to in his statistical preview of this game for Just Football, psg have not picked up the results type of results they would like against sides currently in Ligue 1’s top 10. Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, and perhaps surprisingly, Lorient have all picked up more points per game against the current top 10 than psg. This perhaps gives OM a slight edge in performance tables, however, given the home advantage and current general form it woulod be foolish to suggest that psg have anything but the upper hand.
For the benefit of the Ligue I hope for what would be considered a shock Marseille win. To have potentially only 2 points separating the top 3 teams with 12 games remaining would be a fantastic advertisement for French football. This would make it more competitive than any of the other ‘top’ leagues in Europe (Points separating Top 3 teams: Germany – 16; Spain – 16; England – 16; Italy – 11).
Above all though, a competitive match would be requested. Along with the minimal points separating the top teams, we need some of the top matches to provide a ‘wow’ factor. Most of you reading this, will be reading it because of your love of French football and the Ligue in general. Like me, you will seek out match reports, read reviews and watch highlights of the dullest 0-0 draws, just because you love the ligue. Unfortunately ESPN have opted to show the Milan derby and I can understand their choice. But I would love have the satisfaction that we all watched our dodgy internet streams for a game that had more depending on it, and was more entertaining than Gladbach v Dortmund, Man City v Chelsea, Inter v AC, Barca v Sivilla and Athletico Madrid v Espanyol combined!
Predicted score: psg 1v2 Marseille (hopeful, but what the hell!)
Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)
Other Ligue 1 games
Nice 2-0 Reims
Rennes 2v2 Sochaux
Ajaccio 1v3 Lille
Evian 0v1 Montpellier
Nancy 0v3 Saint-Etienne
Valenciennes 0v0 Toulouse
Lyon v Lorient
Bordeaux v Brest
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)