psg v Marseille
Parc des Princes, Paris
20:00 UK (Live on ESPN)
Marseille travel to the Parc des Princes in Paris looking for their first victory in the capital since 2010 after 4 defeats in a row. If there is ever a good time to face the Qatari rich club, it could be now. Not because they’ve had a dip in form, but more down to the lack of any burden of expectation on our own shoulders. Last season we were potentially still fighting for the ligue title in February, and we in with qualifying for the ¼ finals of the Coupe de la Ligue in October, so there was a great deal of pressure on our relatively small squad. The only minor victory from the two 0-2 defeats in Paris, was Joey Barton having a pop at Zlatan, reminding him that he’s got a ‘big f**king nose’, as I said (very) minor victory.
This time out, no pressure, yeah we’re hoping to grab the 3rd Champions League qualifying spot, but with 10 more games left, a defeat wouldn’t put us completely out of the race. Gignac, Thauvin, Payet and Valbuena re all playing some of their best football of the season, Nkoulou has regained a little form and there seems to be a good team spirit. Could it be enough to win? Evian showed before the winter break, that it’s not always about the players, but attitude and effort, especially if psg have a slight off day. Ajaccio and Lille, have both frustrated psg at home, picking up wins, whereas ASSE and Guingamp made home advantage count as they broke up psg’s play and fought to score and come close to winning.
Despite only taking around 300 supporters to the capital, partly down to previous fan trouble and also ultra’ protests at the expense of tickets, Jose Anigo should have a full squad at his disposal. Benoit Cheyrou was a doubt, but has seemingly recovered from an illness earlier this week.
The full squad includes Romao, but is without the injured Saber Khalifa. Full squad: Mandanda, Samba, Diawara, Fanni, Mendes, Mendy, Morel, Nkoulou, Dja Djedje, Imbula, Lemina, Valbuena, Cheyrou, Romao, Ayew, Gignac, Thauvin and Payet.
Probable line up and formation:
Fanni Nkoulou Mendes Morel
Payet Ayew Romao
The midfield 3 will be expected to break up the link between the psg midfield and attack. This would pressure Ibrahimovic into dropping deeper, which despite him being more than capable of doing this, at least it keeps him further away from the OM goal. If this is Anigo’s game plan, it important that he is tracked from deep, either through Ayew, and/or a covering central defender. By playing narrow when defending this would push psg’s attacks wide resulting in crosses from Verratti or Matuidi, or long balls from deep, something that Nkoulou, Mendes and Fanni should be more than comfortable dealing with.
Creativity from Thauvin and Gignac will cause any defence problems, particularly whe supported by Valbuena, Payet and Ayew. The importance is that the ball gets played directly to these players, during the 3 ‘classicos’ last season this didn’t happen. Gignac, in particular was left increasingly isolated and frustrated.
Laurent Blanc is also expecting a full squad to be available after Cavani returned to training, and while he may feature for some of the game, this would be more likely to be from the bench. In their last 3 games, psg have scored 11 goals, 3 against Valenciennes, 4 against Bayer Leverkusen and another 4 against Toulouse last week.
Full psg squad for the game: Sirigu, Douchez, Alex, Digne, Marquinhos, Maxwell, Thiago Silva, Van Der Wiel, Cabaye, Lucas, Matuidi, Menez, Pastore, Rabiot, Thiago Motta, Verratti, Cavani, Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi.
Likely line-up and formation:
Vd-Weil Alex Silva Maxwell
Matuidi Motta Verratti
Moura Ibrahimovic Lavezzi
A win for OM, as well as providing a huge morale boost would keep us the European qualification hopefuls. A defeat for psg could see 2nd placed Monaco move to within 2 points of the ligue leaders. A win for psg would help keep their current 5 point gap over Monaco and could see OM finish the weekend as low as 7th and as much as 6 points off 3rd placed Lille.