Sun 23/09/12 – 16:00 (UK)
Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Ref. – Nicolas Rainville
Marseille will play their third game in the space of a week as they return to domestic action to face Evian. A hard fought victory against AS Nancy in week 5 kept up OM’s 100% record in the ligue, and a late fight-back against tough Turkish team Fenerbahce shows the team really does have the guts it they appeared to lack throughout last season. The opposition have had quite the opposite start to the season, losing 3 of their opening 4 games, although the 1-1 draw against Lyon and last week’s 3-0 defeat of Bastia will give Evian a much needed boost in confidence. Last week’s win, lifted Evian out of the early relegation zone and was Pascal Dupraz’s first game in charge of the team after they parted ways with Pablo Correa.
Having dominated possession and much of the mid-week Europa League game against Fenerbahce, Marseille entered the final 10 minutes of the game looking t a 2-0 defeat. Despite numerous chances, OM just hadn’t managed to find the goal and just as it seemed that OM would face their first defeat of the season some magic from Valbuena gave them a lifeline. Andre Ayew then completed a spectular comeback after meeting a corner and heading home. The look of joy from all on the pitch was a treat to watch, as well as the sounds of pleasure from an unashamedly biased French commentary team. Having spent so much of last season failing to show any signs of determination or fight, Marseille showed that they have that in abundance this season.
Other news from the game was that Joey Barton made a solid debut. Although he is still banned from domestic competitions for another 8 games, Europe will at least offer him some game time and will offer OM some variability in midfield. Loic Remy also made a promising return, completing just over 70 minutes.
After the inclusion and subsequent injury of NDiaye on Thursda evening, Elie Baup will be likely to revert to the same defensive line-up that have only conceded once in the ligue this season, with Kabore reclaiming his place at right-back, despite the positivity shown by Fanni in this position midweek. If fit, Abdullah will take his place in the defensive midfield position with Cheyrou and after being rested for most of the European game it would be no surprise if top-scoring, high in confidence Gignac returns to lead the line against Evian.
Only time will tell how Baup deals with the innevatble selection dilemma of Gignac or Remy. For most of the past season this would have been a no-brainer, however, because of Gignac’s tremendous start to the season it would seem incredibly unfair to drop him. At the same time, having been linked with many moves away, and OM managing to desperately hold on to him, Remy is not likely to be too keen to sit on the bench only making the odd European start. Keeping both players happy will be tough if they are both fit, leaving another option as starting both. This would, however, mean a shift in formation from the 4231 which has worked so effectively this season. This year the link-up play between defence and attack has been seemless, something the squad struggled with under Deschamps. A shift to a more rigid 442 would surely stifle what is often an attacking four (Amalfitano, Valbuena, A. Ayew and Gignac). The choice of the 2 defensive midfielders, Cheyrou and Abdullah/Barton/Kabore this season has also supported a rather fragile defence. The extra player in the centre has pushed other teams out wide more often, leaving them with little choice but to try and take on Fanni or Morel, something both players are actually very good at dealing with, or playing in crosses, something that Mandanda is very good at dealing with.
The inclusion of Abdallah and Mendes in the match-day squad will be relief to Baup, whose defensive choices were starting to become limited at best. They may feature at some point in the game, though it would be sensible of Baup to give the defence some stability and keep the same line-up that started against Nancy. The full squad consists of: Mandanda, Bracigliano, Abdallah, Morel, Mbow, Mendes, Kabore, Abdullah, Cheyrou, Amalfitano, Valbuena, A. Ayew, Remy, Gignac, J. Ayew.
Likely starting line-up and formation:
Who are they? –
After promotion from Ligue 2, Evian managed a more than respectable 9th placed finish last season (1 place and 2 points ahead of OM). Their hard working mentality and often exciting counter-attacking play meant they were a difficult team to beat, particularly away from home, only losing 6 times on the road, compared to OM’s 10. This season though, Evian have struggled to recreate that style of play. Already this season 20 different players have started games for them (OM have 15 including Azpi and Mbia), hardly allowing a team lacking in confidence from defeats to start to build any form of relationship or understanding. Their swift counter-attacking play has not seemed as threatening this season either, often long balls forward, or through balls leading to their chances. This is something that OM’s defence have improved in dealing with this season.
As is often the case, a team’s form picks up when a new manager takes over and last week’s victory for Evian was no exception. Having said that, Dupraz’s impact was also shown in the manner of their victory over Bastia. Hints of some of the stylistic qualities in Evian’s play were creeping back in, and the team showed an immediate confidence in what they were doing.
Attacking-midfielder Cedric Barbosa is Evian’s one to watch. His 2 goals against Bastia, helped inspire ETG to their first victory of the season. The seasoned professional, whose career has taken him to Montpellier, Rennes and Troyes can be a threat down the left or through the centre. Although he isn’t the quickest of players, his passing accuracy and vision is what can cause other teams problems wherever he plays. If he starts on the left for Evian, Kabore would do well to push him towards the flanks, and as long as Fanni/Nkoulou track any runs by Sagbo or Khelifa, any through balls played by Barbosa should amount to very little. Barbosa also takes a mean set-piece, he hit a 20 yard free kick off the bar against Bastia, so a disciplined approach to defending and no silly tackles will help ensure this isn’t a problem.
In their defeats this season, Evia showed some vulnerability down the wings, again an area that OM have exploited well this season, particularly against Fenerbahce. Therefore when attacking, getting the ball to Amalfitano and Ayew will be a top priority. Valbuena can provide this link if the ball is played quickly up through the centre and also support the wide men if needed.
This time last season, Marseille picked up their first win of the campaign over Evian at home, this time they are hoping that they can avoid a first defeat, or draw for that matter. With Lorient and PSG both playing what they would consider ‘winnable’ games against Nice and Bastia respectively, it is imperative that OM keep as much distance between themselves and the rest of the ligue as possible. If Evian had not recently changed managers, this may appear as a routine game. But the new coach, and talk of a European hangover, will hopefully ensure that OM do not become complaicent in this game.
Predicted score: Marseille 2-0 Evian
Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)
Weekends other Ligue 1 games
Montpellier 1v1 Saint-Etienne
Bastia 0v4 PSG
Reims 2v0 Nancy
Toulouse 2v2 Rennes
Brest 2v1 Valenciennes
Lorient 1v1 Nice
Sochaux 3v1 Troyes
Bordeaux v Ajaccio
Lille v Lyon