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Marseille v Nice – 8/11/15 – Match Preview


OM go in search of their 4th victory in a row, something not achieved since May earlier this year. But hard fought victories over Lille, Nantes and Braga have given OM a push as they look to claw their way back up the table towards the European spots, currently 7 points off the 3rd Champion’s League place.

Michel will be exceptionally happy with 2 clean sheets from the 3 previous games, but the results have been quite tight and Nice have managed 26 goals this season, second only to psg, and 8 more than OM have mustered, though Nice have conceded 4 more than OM.

Away from home Nice have travelled well picking up 11 points from a possible 18, only suffering 1 defeat, surprisingly at the hands of Gazelec Ajaccio in week 11.

Michel has a rather depleted squad for this game with Cabella, Diarra and Nkoulou all suspended for the game, while Alessandrini and Dja Djedje miss out through injury and Diary is still not ready to play. The full squad is made up of: Mandanda, Pelé, De Ceglie, Manquillo, Mendy, Rekik, Rolando, Sparagna, Barrada, Isla, Lopez, Romao, Sarr, Silva, Zambo-Anguissa, Batshuayi, Nkoudou, Ocampos.

Likely starting 11:


Manquillo, Rolando, Rekik, Mendy

Silva, Romao

Nkoudou, Barrada, Ocampos


Attacking-wise, OM should fair ok with Nkoudou and Ocampos getting some recent game time and performing well against Braga mid-week, however the big question will be how OM cope with former talisman Ben Arfa and Germain, who have netted 11 goals between them so far this seaosn. With Nkoulou and Diarra absent there is a gaping hole through the centre of the team. Silva and Romao will be expected to protect the centre back pairing of Rolando and Rekik, pushing any Nice attacks out wide for Manquillo and Mendy to deal with.

Likely starting 11 for Nice:


Pied, Bodmer, Merchand, Pereira

Koziello, Mendy, Seri


Ben Arfa, Germain

With only 2 places and 3 points separating these 2 teams, it is likely that Sunday afternoon’s game will be a tight affair, but with many attacking opportunities for both teams. Expect an end-to-end game, that should hope to be entertaining to the neutral. (Disclaimer – bet on 0-0 borefest now!)


Marseille v Lorient – 28/10/15 – Preview

After the international break, it feels hard to be up for the next game, against Lorient. Look back and we haven’t won in 5 games, are on the back of 3 straight defeats, 1 at the hands of Angers and one at the hands of Slovan Liberec, and another at the hands of that team from the capital. Add to that the punishment of stand closures from the Lyon game, which is still fresh in the memory, the threat of whole stadium closure and fine for this and you’ll excuse me if I’m not chomping at the bit for a Sunday lunch-time visit of Lorient (who last time we played them caned us 5-3 and ex-OM enigma Jordan Ayew bagged a brace and played out of his skin).

But then, I think back to that game in the capital. Another set of questionable decisions screwing us over, but actually that’s all that the performance had in common to previous years. On the pitch we had a squad, no a team, who actually performed to a level near their capabilities, gone was the usual OM squad who turned up and were blinded by the bright (spot) lights, disturbed by the glittery fireworks and blown away by the draft from all the plastic plastic-flag-waving supporters. Just like the OM fans, their team went out and just didn’t give a shit.

More of the same on Sunday would be nice to see from Michel’s team thank you. Play like that and 16th in the Ligue should soon become a distant memory, despite games against Lille, Nantes, ASSE and Monaco coming up. Perform like that and we should overcome the difficult trips to Braga and Liberec in the Europa League and should comfortably qualify for the next round. Perform like that and the OM faithful will be back on side no problem, as it would appear that Barrada, Cabella and Alessandrini are up to the task of filling big empty spaces from last year.

Michel has almost a full squad available with only Barrada missing from the usual first 11 team. Andonian and Isla also miss out.

Full squad: Mandanda, Pelé, Manquillo, Nkoulou, Mendy, Rekik, Rolando, Sparagna, De Ceglie, Dja Djédjé, Silva, Diarra, Cabella, Sarr, Romao, Zambo Anguissa, Ocampos, Alessandrini, Nkoudou, Batshuayi.

Expected starting 11:


Manquillo, Nkoulou, Reki, Mendy

Diarra, Silva

Alessandrini, Cabella, Ocampos


Lorient head to the partially closed Velodrome having only suffered 1 defeat in their last 5, picking up a win on the road at Monaco and home victories over Angers, Caen and Bordeaux.

They sit 6 points above us in 9th after a solid start to the season, despite losing some key players over the summer.

Expected starting 11:


Paye, Kone, Toure, Goff

Jouffre, Ndong, Bellugou, Guerreiro

Waris, Moukandjo

5 Things Learned From Le Classique

So despite Marseille’s best efforts two penalties undid their good work and PSG extend their lead to the top by 5 points, the result means yet another win for the Parisiens, and Marseille are now just four points from the relegation zone.

But what else did we actually learn from the latest edition of France’s biggest derby? Kevin Galvin investigates.

1. Marseille still have fight

Les Phocéens came out of the block chomping at the bit last night, and had a number of good chances as they stunned Paris Saint-Germain for the opening 20 minutes. Alessandrini was getting the better of Aurier, Thiago Motta was kept quiet by Lucas Silva, and as Michy Batshuayi’s goal was more than deserved when it came.

After the disappointment before the half OM hung in, and even more satisfyingly for Michel won themselves a penalty; while the ultimate result was a loss for Marseille the signs are far more positive than following their insipid displays against Angers and Slovan Liberec during the week.

However, Michel’s side are still just four points ahead of the relegation zone, and will need to take full points from their next four games against Lorient, Lille, Nantes and Nice to bolster their position before facing Saint Étienne away on November 21st.

2. PSG can win dirty

It wasn’t a vintage performance by PSG by any means, but the Parisians crucially got the three points against a Marseille side who arguably played their best football of the season at the Parc de princes.

Laurent Blanc’s side showed their resolve; they came from behind to beat Nantes 4-1 last week, and despite not dominating in the way that they did last week in Stade de la Beaujoire, PSG earned another crucial three points in their bid to win the title for a third season in a row, and have dropped only four points from their first nine games.

3. PSG’s new signings can do it in the big games

Apart from the two penalties, Zlatan Ibrahimovic did very little in last night’s game, having an unusually small impact in a Classique encounter. However, that was compensated by the two fantastic performances of their big summer signings, Angel Di Maria, and Kevin Trapp.

Di Maria was at the centre of everything good for the hosts, and absolutely roasted Paolo De Ceglie down the right hand flank, often linking up with Aurier and Maxwell, and having a big impact on both PSG penalties. The Argentinean scored last year, and is already proving a handful for French defences, Blanc will hope that the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star can do the same in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages.

Kevin Trapp meanwhile was PSG’s biggest hero of the night, saving the penalty that would have given Marseille a point, and with moments remaining in the game the German positioned himself perfectly to save from Cabella when it seemed certain that the visitors would be leaving with a point. In all Trapp had five saves, and was voted man of the match.

4. Pressing is they key in Paris

One of the keys to Marseille’s early success was their energy and pressing of the PSG midfield. On numerous occasions Le Phocéens earned themselves golden chances by closing down Thiago Motta in particular, winning the ball back, and countering with intent.

In the first half Motta was inches away from conceding a penalty after handballing Romain Alessandrini’s cross, while in the second such a break led to Abdelaziz Barrada being taken down by Serge Aurier for Marseille’s penalty, which, if converted, could have certainly earned a point for OM.

5. Laurent Blanc’s rivalling José Mourinho for entertainment value

Laurent Blanc is always worth a listen to in a post-match interview; honest, frank, insightful, the PSG manager was once again in top form last night, honestly admitting that the best team didn’t necessarily win, and that Marseille could feel very hard done by.

However, the quote of the night came when Canal + reporter Olivier Tallaron asked the former French international if he saw that Rihanna was in the stand to support his team.

“No, I think she’s looking for you though” he said before walking off camera. Microphone. Drop.

Marseille v SM Caen – 08/08/15

Marseille v SM Caen

08/08/15 – 20:00

Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Ligue 1, Game 1

OM are set to kick off the 15-16 season against SM Caen on Saturday evening at the Velodrome after a mixed pre-season. With disappointing results against Livorno and Fenerbahce and impressive results against Sahel, Anatlyaspor and particularly Juventus the expected capacity crowd at will hope that OM can pull off their first home victory over Caen since 2008 (having drawn one and lost 2 of the previous 3 games).

Bielsa seems is reportedly happy with the transfers over the summer, which in spite of losing a significant number of the star players from last term, is something that couldn’t be said at the beginning of last season. Once again, OM’s shortcomings seemed to be in defence over the summer, with the varied attacking formations all working well. With the expected absence of new signings Diarra and Diaby, Bielsa has an almost full-strength squad at his disposal:

Mandanda, Pele, Dja Djedje, Sparagna, Rekik, Mendy, Aloe, Sane, Lemina, Romao, Tuiloma, Barrada, Sarr, Alessandrini, Batshuayi Thauvin, Ocampos, Nkoudou.

Given the difficulty OM have faced defensively over the summer and, the tricky opposition that Caen are likely to provide, Bielsa may opt for a flat back 4, rather than the 3 he used fittingly last season. This will hopefully provide a bit of solidity in a game that is likely to be tight and that OM will undoubtedly not want to lose.

Expected line-up:


Dja Djedje, Sparagna, Rekik, Mendy

Lemina, Romao


Alessandrini, Batshuayi, Thauvin

Having survived Ligue 1 last year, Caen will look to solidify their place in the devision this year, to make themselves a permanent feature of the league. Surprisingly, Caen were 4th in the goals scored table last year and this is something that manager Patrice Garande will be likely to want to continue this year too. Although they have lost N’golo Kante (provider of 3 goals and 5 assists), and Thomas Lemar (1 goal and 5 assists), they have reinvested the money gained form these transfers in the acquisition of Jeff Louis and likely starter Vincent Bessat. Of course they may call on former OM man, Florian Raspentino too, who returned over the summer after spending last season on loan at Dijon.

Expected line-up:


Apia, Silva, Yahia, Imorou

Feret, Adeoti, Delaplace

Bazile, Delort, Bassat

 A nervy and tense encounter can always be expected on the opening fixture for any team, but this will only be compounded for OM should the struggle to break the deadlock, or worse go a goal or two behind. An early goal for OM could be a must, or else we could see the usual nerves settle in from the Velodrome crowd and make life even more difficult for the OM players. As tricky as this game could be, and the starting 11 could be judged as being considerable weaker than last seasons opening 11, a great deal of these players have a point to prove and will aim to solidify their place in the OM starting 11.

Allez l’OM!


Fenerbahce 3 – 1 Marseille

Fenerbahce 3-1 Marseille
(Diego, Sow, Fernandao; Thauvin)
Mandanda (cap) – Sparagna, Nkoulou, Rekik – Dja Djedje, Lemina, Mendy – Sarr, Barrada, Alessandrini – Ocampos
Subs: Batshuayi, Thauvin, Tuiloma, Nkoudou
Subs n/u: Andonian, Aloe, Escales, Romao, Dubois, Sane, Boutobba, Pele

OM’s first test of the pre-season came in the Afyon Cup against hosts Fenerbahce. Fenerbahce are way ahead of OM in terms of their preparedness for the season, with games in the Champions League qualifiers to contend with whereas OM are only counting down to the 8th August for the Ligue 1 season opener against Caen.

This readiness showed from the kick off as the Turkish side pressed and challenged the OM defense early on. A Lemina hand-ball near the edge of the box allowed the hosts a free-kick which Diego neatly put away. A well finished goal, although Mandanda may be disappointed that he couldn’t get closer to it.

Pre season stats:
Batshuayi 2
Thauvin 2
Ocampos 1
Boutobba 1

Playing time:
Mandanda – 180
Sparagna – 150
Nkoulou – 135
Rekik – 135
Sarr – 135
Barrada – 135
Dja Djedje – 135
Ocampos – 117
Lemina – 105
Thauvin – 90
Alessandrini – 90
Batshuayi – 90
Mendy – 90
Aloe – 78
Sane – 78
Nkoudou – 75
Romao – 45
Boutobba – 45
Tuiloma – 42
Andonian – 18
Dubois – 12


Etoile Sportive du Sahel 1v5 Marseille

Etiole Sportive du Sahel 1-5 Marseille

(Bounedjah pen.; Thauvin, Ocampos, Batshuayi 2, Boutobba)

1st half team: Mandanda (cap) – Aloé, Nkoulou, Rekik, Sane – Sparagna – Lemina, Thauvin – Nkoudou, Ocampos, Alessandrini.
2nd half team: Mandanda – Djadjédjé, Aloé (Tuiloma, 78), Sparagna (Andonian, 72), Sane (Dubois, 78) – Romao, Boutobba – Sarr, Barrada, Ocampos (Nkoudou, 72) – Batshuayi.

OM’s first friendly brought a comfortable win against Tunisian side Sahel, in Sousse. The relief of it being Bielsa who got to name the squad is huge amongst OM fans, and the worry over summer sales, questionable investment and delays in contract signing had most of us panicked!

As expected in any friendly Bielsa names a rather predictable squad for the first half, before making 9 changes for the 2nd half.

The pairing of new-boy Rekik and experienced Nkoulou seemed to work relatively well and kept the home side at bay, creating very little in the 1st half other than shots from distance. Warning signs are there early on though as Sahel managed to find a way in behind the OM defence as had been the case too often over the past few seasons. The man with perhaps the biggest shoes to fill, and the biggest point to prove (if he stays), opened the scoring for the visitors charging in to score after Alessandrini’s corner was only half cleared.

Shortly after the break, some neat work from Sarr on the right saw Ocampos continue where he left off at the end of last season as he neatly flicked the ball past the Sahel ‘keeper at the near post. Minutes later, Batshuayi showed his coolness, composure and confidence as he first held his position to spring the offside trap played by a high Sahel defensive line, then took the ball past the ‘keeper on the edge of the box, took past one defender and then slotted home.

Boutobba’s goal was far more straight forward as he reacted first to a saved shot and fired the ball into the roof of the net.

Sahel managed to give the full home crowd something to cheer about in the 83rd minute as they netted a rather dubious penalty. My knowledge isn’t as good as it could be, however, laying off the ball for someone else to score, is not a conventional way of taking penalties.

Bathsuayi’s second of the game also came from a nice through ball. As he closed in on the ‘keeper he cheekily lifted the ball over the approaching Jebali to give OM a convincing 5-1 victory.

On a side note, it was interesting to note that as far as we are aware neither Marseille nor the French foreign office advised against people travelling to Sousse for the game. This, of course, only a week or so after the British government advised people against flying to the area and were actively evacuating British nationals out of the area due to what they deemed to be an imminent terrorist attack.

Our thoughts and prayers of course go out to all of those affected by the incident in Sousse on 26th June.


Batshuayi 2

Thauvin 1

Ocampos 1

Boutobba 1

Playing time:

Mandanda – 90

Aloe – 78

Sane – 78

Sparagna – 72

Ocampos – 72

Nkoudou – 63

Nkoulou – 45

Rekik – 45

Lemina – 45

Thauvin – 45

Alessandrini – 45

Dja Djedje – 45

Romao – 45

Boutobba – 45

Sarr – 45

Barrada – 45

Batshuayi – 45

Andonian – 18

Tuiloma – 12

Dubois – 12

5th Isn’t a Failure and Why Bielsa Must Stay

Bielsa No Se Va

As OM were crowned autumn Champions, all looked rosy in the south of France. After a nervy start to the season, Bielsa had his side playing exciting football and most importantly were winning. But post-half-season-championship, things took a dive for Marseille, performances and form dipped, Gignac’s goals dried up, injuries left the squad looking rather thin and before long we were being touted as a side who would be lucky to reach the 5th place needed for Europa league qualification (or didn’t even deserve it in some eyes!). Given the last few results and performances though, thankfully, Marseille will be back in Europe again next season and personally I hope it’s the Europa league.

Now that statement may be a little controversial, given most people’s dislike of the format and duration of the Europa league, compared to the glamour and more importantly the money that the Champions League brings with it, however, I think it would be the right step up for OM. Let’s not forget this season we’ve had no European football after last seasons disastrous campaign resulting in a 6th placed finish. Also, during that season we had the humiliation of a Champions League campaign that amassed a grand total of 0 points from the group stage’s 6 games.

This summer Marseille are set to lose at least 2 consistent stars of the past few years, Gignac and Ayew. Add to that the possibility of NKoulou, Mandanda, Thauvin, Imbula and Payet and our small experienced senior squad is seriously diminished. Marseille are not in the financial situation to bring in players anywhere near the calibre of those listed above. It would be incredibly difficult for OM to succeed without considerable investment in all positions and as usual it sounds as though MLD and Labrune just don’t have that sort of money, particularly given that no money will come in through losing Ayew and Gignac.

Regardless of where we finish, it would seem as though the coach must partially re-build the squad. I want that coach to be Bielsa. He knows his current players strengths and (some of their weaknesses) and should have a clear picture of which players OM need to maintain a campaign on 4 fronts for a full season next season. A lot was made of Bielsa’s ‘list’ from last summer, reportedly none of the players OM brought in were from that list, something to which Bielsa made clear he was frustrated with. If Bielsa stays, he must be allowed to build his squad.

This seasons failings can’t all be pinned on Bielsa, given the lack of opportunity to build his own squad, he has done phenomenally well with a squad that was appealing last season, not just in ligue position but in performance. There have been times in the previous 2 season under Baup and Anigo that I have despised watching OM. The flaccid, bore-fests I have tried to endure to give updates and write previous and reports on are not what I signed up for. I found myself disliking OM, following them had become a chore that on-top of family, work and gigs felt very much like a one-sided relationship, I was giving all and getting nothing in return.

The French Football Weekly podcast have had many interesting discussions about OM and Bielsa this season and one in particular I really agreed with some of the points made recently. One of the gang (apologies as I can’t remember who or exactly how the question was worded) offered the question ‘would OM fans settle for 3rd/4th/5th playing the type of football under Bielsa, rather than a more boring style and pushing for 2nd?’ Well as an NUFC fan who was a season ticket holder back in the Keegan ‘entertainer’ days, I’d take Bielsa any day of the week. Realistically, OM are not going to win the ligue any time soon, a cup perhaps, maybe even a good Europa League run, but as much as I am loathe to admit it, psg managed to invest huge amounts of money before FFP and are now in a position to dominate domestic French football for the foreseeable future. So we might as well enjoy the football and entertainment that I guy like Bielsa can provide.

I could be biased given how bad OM were for the last 2 years, but I want to be entertained by my football team. I want to see the players try for the fans, for themselves, for each other and for the coach, and anyone who witnessed the goals against Metz, Lille and the late winner against Monaco can see that OM have that in abundance under Bielsa.

Bielsa Gignac Metz

Whatever happens tonight I can say I have enjoyed the season overall. Yes there’s been some negatives and we may always think ‘what if’ (we drew instead of loosing some games between Christmas and Easer, didn’t have all of the terrible conspiracy-theory inducing refereeing decisions against us, never started Doria, inexplicably sold Mendes and continually played Thauvin etc etc etc), but regardless:

Thank you Marcelo Bielsa and Marseille for making me love the club again.