Sat 9th August – 20:00
SC Bastia v Marseille
Stade Armand Cesari, Bastia, Corsica
Marseille’s Marcelo Bielsa era begins on Saturday evening against Corsican side SC Bastia. The clash will pit 2 new managers in Ligue 1 against each other as OM’s new head coach faces up against Claude Makelele, in his first managerial position.
OM come into the game full of confidence after a pre-season that contained an unbeaten record of 4 wins and 1 draw against some quality European competition.
Having invested well and spent hours drilling his new squad, Bielsa will also be relatively happy that he has managed to keep ahold of some of the more experienced OM players such as Mandanda and Nkoulou, despite recently losing Valbuena. The same cannot necessarily be said of Makelele, whose inexperience along management will be tested greatly without the experienced Laundreau and Khazri, despite some good investment with brining in Areola and Ayite as replacements.
Bielsa will be likely to start with a 3-3-1-3 formation used a great deal in friendlies, though the absence of Romao may keen some reshuffling of the defensive 3, with either Mendes or youngster Sparagna deputising. The flexibility of this formation has helped ensure the opposition are offered very little time on the ball in both midfield and in their attack. Most goals against in pre-season have came from a loose ball and snap-shot by the opponents attackers from around the edge of the 18 yard box. This will be something that Bielsa and the OM defence will be keen to prevent Mandanda from having to face, given that old boys Cisse and Brandao would be more than happy to cause an upset on the opening day of the season.
This formation and Bielsa’s attacking and winning mentality has also allowed OM to accrue 15 goals for in only 5 pre-season games. The refreshing approach of changing players and formations even saw OM with 6 attackers on the pitch at the end of the AS Bari game as OM searched for an equaliser and potential winner. Despite looking like he may be on his way out of the club, Payet has possibly impressed the most, looking skilful, fast and sharp with great vision, providing a number of key passes an assists along with Thauvin. Both of these players were just off their peak last season, so seeing them playing as they can is hugely encouraging. The same could be said of new signing, Batshuayi. Arriving from Belgium with a mixed reputation, 4 goals in 5 games has certainly helped to quash the criticisers.
OM likely lineup and formation:
Sparagna Nkoulou Morel
Dja Djedje Imbula Mendy
Thauvin Gignac Ayew
This should prove to be an exciting opener to the new season for both teams and could set out the rest of the season for both managers too. If Makalele suffers a defeat, it could be a long hard season for the Corsicans, equally, if Bielsa suffers a defeat then he will need a quick turnaround in fortunes in order to keep everyone happy, after such high hopes.