Tag Archives: Joey Barton

Marseille 2012-2013 Season Review

After a woeful domestic campaign during 2011/12, hopes weren’t particularly high at the start of the 2012/13 season. Having won the Coupe de France, Marseille stuttered to a 10th place finish last time round. OM started the season having lost high profile players Lucho Gonzalez, Stephane Mbia, Alou Diarra and Cesar Azpilicueta, along with club legend and manager Didier Deschamps. With the loss of these ‘stars’ and with the less than favourable appointment of Elie Baup as manager, many felt that a top-10 finish would be a success. To many teams seemed to have better players, stringer squads and greater finances, not a position Marseille are used to being in.

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With Elie Baup at the helm Marseille began their season early in the Europa League 3rd qualifying round and managed to see off a tricky Eskisehirspor team with two disciplined performances that were to become the blueprint for the rest of the season.

Much to everyone’s surprise OM’s ligue campaign stared perfectly, with 6 wins from 6. At the time most put this down to a ‘generous’ fixture list, though it did contain a tricky trip to champions Montpellier and a Rennes side who usually start the season well. It looked as though all of this hard work had been in vain though as the side were humiliated 4-1 by Valenciennes in week 7 in one of the worst performances of the season. Individual errors were costly and OM offered little in attack.

Despite this loss, Marseille managed a moral boosting win in the Europa League, 5-1 over AEL Limassol, however, PSG were up next. Even with the Valenciennes loss hanging over them, Marseille equalled and in fact, bettered psg in most areas across the pitch. 2 superb strikes from Zlatan were equalled by 2 fantastic strikes from the in-form Andre-Pierre Gignac. Such was the quality and threat that OM possessed in this game, Ancelotti’s team ended the game with 7 recognised defenders on the pitch playing out for a draw. The passion of this game in the stands, was equalled by our Olympians, and if psg hadn’t have played with such negativity in the second half Marseille could have and probably should have picked up all 3 points.

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With APG in the kind of form that made him hot property when he signed for OM in 2010, the team struggled without him when he sustained a metatarsal injury in mid-October. During this time Marseille were knocked out of the Europa League at the end of the group stage, knocked out of the Coupe de la Ligue and picked up Ligue 1 losses to Troyes, Lyon and Lorient allowing PSG and Lyon to finish above OM in the standings before the winter break.

With all 3 teams equal on points at the end of December though it was probably Marseille who should have been happiest. psg were undoubtedly disappointed that they had not already managed a significant points gap between themselves and their challengers, while Lyon were probably a little disappointed to be on the same points as OM.

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One of the most unusual signings in France was Joey Barton signing for Marseille on loan. Hitting the headlines when ‘exiled’ to Marseille, he continued to upset most with his twitter-rants and comments and then proceeded to upset people even more by actually playing well on the pitch and putting in strong yet disciplined performances, he even had the audacity to set up the 2 goals that gave OM a win in a tough away trip to Stade Brestois, picking up the man of the match award in the process!

After the winter break Marseille dropped more points against Sochaux, Rennes, Nancy, Evian and PSG. The purchase of Romao, Sougou and Kadir on a shoestring budget seemed to have backfired for Baup and the board as the squad struggled to find their rhythm. With APG also struggling to find his early season form, the departure of Loic Remy to QPR meant that OM were relying on Jordan Ayew who is yet to live up to his potential or discover what the word consistent means.

Having got these poor results out of their system, Marseille managed to finish the season strongly. Being knocked out of the Europa league may have been a blessing given the lack of squad depth and European experience of some of the newer players.

Baup seemed to realise that defensively, Marseille had not been performing to their best standards and put a great deal of emphasis on defensive stability for the reminder of the season. With Lucas Mendes becoming accustomed to the Ligue 1 style, he and Nkoulou developed an impressive partnership that stopped almost anything getting to the equally as impressive Steve Mandanda who found some of his best form at the end of the season too. So good was this partnership that the team only let in a meagre 4 goals in the final 10 weeks of the season.

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Despite it bringing on a ‘boring’ tag on Marseille’s approach to games, a solid defence was something that OM fans have craved for a long time. With the quality in their attacking ranks through Valbuena, Andre Ayew and Gignac there was always a likely chance that OM would score, and this is exactly what happened during Marseille’s 7 game streak without conceding, which allowed them to overtake Lyon and claim 2nd spot guaranteeing Champions League football next season. In my opinion the boring tag was a little unfair in the way it was used. Yes, OM weren’t netting 4 goals a game, but the squad were doing the best with what they had. Other teams would show ‘disciplined’ performances and were ‘clinical’ in front of goal while ‘grinding out results’ is often the sign of a good team. Hopefully, Baup and the other coaches can build on the defensive stability and work on the flow of football further up the pitch utilising the strength and pace that OM have in attack and therefore allow Marseille to not only keep tight in defence but also out score the opposition when needed (the 2 away psg games were indicative of a lack of this where the defence was breached).

 

Given the disappointment of last season, the uncertainty at the beginning of the season, pushing PSG so close for the title and finishing 2nd in the ligue is a huge achievement for Marseille. It remains to be seen how they manage next season to find out if it was an overachievement. Securing Champions League football is a huge boost though, and should hopefully ensure we hold onto our top players like Mandanda, Nkoulou and Valbuena. With some shrewd investment and signings that add to our squad depth this has the potential to be a team that develops further and pushes PSG all the way next season too.

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Lyon 0-0 Marseille match report – physical battle ends goalless

No team could find a winner as the ‘Olympico’ fixture ended in a stalemate at Le Stade Gerland. It was a tactically enthralling match but devoid of major chances. Both teams cancelled each other out in what was a very committed display by each respective outfit. Both teams desperately needed all 3 points in order to keep up the pressure on PSG but overall a draw was definitely the fair result here.

Sougou given start

Following his impressive display last weekend, Sougou was given a starting spot by Elie Baup and he was arguably OM’s most dangerous player in the first half. Most of the danger OM created was on the right hand side where the ex Cluj man and Rod Fanni were linking up pretty well. The weak spot on Lyon’s defence was at right back due to the absence of Anthony Reveillere, but for some reason OM never seemed to target Dabo in this encounter.

Apart from the inclusion of Sougou, the OM line-up had a very familiar look about it and there were no surprises. Lyon lined up in a 4-3-3, which included a fairly defensive midfield which didn’t include a playmaker. Both Grenier and Gourcuff were on the bench and the hosts generally struggled to create anything much all night. Unsurprisingly, Lyon targeted Jeremy Morel and Lacazette caused him a few problems in the first half. However, the left back gradually adjusted and eventually was more than able to match the OL youngster.

Physical battle

You could tell that both teams knew the importance of this match. There was a clear focus, determination and fight from all of the players on the field. A defeat for either side here would’ve been a significant blow, but if either was to have any title ambitions then they needed to push on and take all 3 points. This was a very physical battle and some of the tackles flying in were excellent to see. If you like your tactical battles and smashmouth football then this was the sort of fixture you’d have enjoyed. However, for those who prefer open and flairy football then you needed to be looking elsewhere for your kicks.

In the 2nd half, OM arguably created the most dangerous chances. The closest they came was through an Andre Ayew header which passed very close to the post. But in general, both defences have to be given credit for shutting down most attacks. It was the sort of match in which one major error could’ve proved the difference between victory and defeat, but none came. A lot of energy was being used up by the players and it was impressive to see some players have such a strong physical engine.

Fear of defeat

As the last 10-15 mins unfolded, you could tell that both teams really wanted to open up and push hard for the 3 points. But ultimately, the ‘fear’ of defeat was just too much and it prevented the game from opening up. Sometimes if you really want success then you have to take a risk. This is where I will criticise Lyon because they were the home team and the onus was on them to take victory which would’ve kept the pressure on PSG. To some extent, OM can also be criticised for not ‘going for it’ as much as they could’ve, but realistically an away point at Lyon is a fairly good result under normal circumstances.

It was one of those matches where an early goal inside the first 20 mins could’ve really opened things up. I really feel that this was a fixture with great potential. If both teams were free from the mental pressure of not wanting to lose then we could’ve seen a completely different game. But at the end of the day the only winners tonight were PSG as they now have a 4 point gap to Lyon, and 7 to OM. With 10 games left to play, Elie Baup’s men must keep fighting hard for every point in order to claim a place in the top 3, or possibly even higher. Recent away performances have been encouraging, which is vital because trips to Nice and Lille are on the horizon soon. It would be nice if we could turn a few of these decent displays into goals and 3 points though………………..

 

OM player ratings and notes :-

Mandanda 6/10 – With the exception of one poor clearance he had a good night. Strong command here and had very safe hands when called upon.

Morel 5/10 – Lacazette gave him a few problems early on, but he eventually settled into the match fairly well.

Mendes 5/10 – Had a fairly nervous first half, but improved after the break when he made a few crucial interceptions.

N’Koulou 6/10 – Looked pretty assured here and hardly put a foot wrong all night.

Fanni 6/10 – Defended smartly and offered himself in attack as much as he could. Final balls into the box could’ve been a little better.

Romao 5/10 Did a fairly solid job in the middle of the park and helped OM have a strong backbone in this area.

Barton 6/10 – Worked well with Romao in the middle and also helped set up a number of attacks.

Andre Ayew 5/10 – He probably should’ve worked Dabo more than he did, but remained a threat, especially in the air.

Sougou 6/10 – Had an impressive first half in which he was OM’s best player Quietened down after the break before being taken off for Jordan Ayew.

Valbuena 5/10 – Some nice moments as always but he was a frustrated man in this match. Struggled physically against some OL players.

Gignac 5/10 – Never really had a genuine chance but he fought hard for the cause upfront.

Jordan Ayew (sub, 73rd min) 5/10 – Was lively and gave the team some energy, maybe could’ve done more with the ball.

My Lyon player ratings :-

Vercoutre 5/10
Umtiti 6/10
Lovren 4/10
Bisevac 7/10
Dabo 5/10
Gonalons 6/10
Fofana 5/10
Malbranque 5/10
Lacazette 6/10
Lisandro 4/10
Gomis 4/10
Grenier (sub) 6/10

Man of the match – Bisevac.

Tough MOM to award here because nobody really stood out. But the OL centre back was very solid throughout, making a number of key tackles and blocks when it mattered.

 

Marseille v Troyes – 3/3/13 – Match Preview

Sun 03/03/13 – 16:00 (UK)

Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Ref. – Laurent Duhamel

Background –

The meeting between Marseille and Troyes in week 9 could have been the turning point in Marseille’s season. Before the game they were top of the Ligue by 3 points and had only suffered 1 defeat after their best ever start to a season. During the game in Troyes, OM lost Gignac to a broken metatarsal, lost the game 0-1, and lost their place at the top of Ligue1 to psg, something they have failed to gain back since. The loss of Gignac had a huge impact on the team, only winning 2 of the 6 games he missed out on. Having lost out on 3rd place due to other results this weekend, hopefully Marseille can turn the end of their season round with a much needed win over Troyes. A week of back to back losses to psg and a cup exit is one thing. Losing out on 3rd place and a defeat to the ligue’s bottom club would be another!

 

Marseille –

Having matched and bettered psg for most of the Ligue game last Sunday, Elie Baup decided to name an unchanged team against psg’s much changed team for the Coupe de France game midweek. It may have been fatigue or disappointment but OM failed to get anywhere near psg’s much changed team in most departments. The concentration, effort and endeavour that the world had watched on Sunday evening, was nowhere to be seen in the cup. Defensive blunders were back, misplaced passes made a return and wayward shooting continued. A performance like that was never going to beat a reserve psg team, so improvements must be made against a team who will arrive in Marseille fighting for survival.

Benoit Cheyrou and Morgan Amalfitano are both still absent, though N’Diaye returns to the squad. The full squad available for selection consists of: Mandanda, Samba, Fanni, Abdallah, Diawara, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel, N’Diaye, Romao, Barton, Abdullah, Valbuena, A. Ayew, Kadir, Gignac, J. Ayew and Sougou.

Many would have trouble arguing with a decision to change the entire defensive unit after a number of consistently poor and shaky performances from Mandanda, Fanni, Nkoulou, Mendes and Morel, though how beneficial or suitable a defensive 5 of Samba, Abdallah, Diawara, Romao and NDiaye would be remains to be seen. Seeing that Baup has often failed to see the obvious issues in defence all season (set piece marking, conceding from set-pieces and defensive leadership) it is probably safe to assume that the defence will remain unchanged.

Likely starting lineup: 4-2-3-1

Mandanda

Fanni, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel

Romao, Barton

Kadir, Valbuena, Andre Ayew

Gingac

 

Marseille should look to play on the break again, this is where they saw the most success against psg, and they should see a little more benefit from a slightly weaker opposition. Too often last week, OM’s counter play was rushed, and therefore crosses from Valbuena, Gignac or Kadir were trying to pick out only one other attacking player. If OM are to play this was the whole attacking unit needs to break with much more pace, this should not really be a problem for Valbuena, Kadir or Andre Ayew.

 

Who are they? –

After Nancy’s win over Sochaux yesterday, Troyes have dropped to the bottom of the Ligue 1 table and sit 7 points from safety. A shock win at Marseille would undoubtedly give them a huge lift ahead of playing Stade de Reims next week which could then put them only 1 point from safety with the advantage of a huge confidence boost in the process.

At present though they have the 2nd worst defensive record in the ligue, conceding 46 (Bastia have conceded 51), and one of the poorest attacking records too, 14th in the attacking table). Some of Troyes’ good attacking play this season has come from play down the wings. If Marseille allow Troyes to attack in this way, then they should ensure that Nkoulou and Mendes are in position to defend effectively.

Bahebeck and Camus are likely to be the two players working the wide positions for Troyes. Fanni and Morel must be careful to push their respective opponents wide and force them into crosses from difficult positions, allowing the rest of the OM team to take up suitable defensive positions. Allowing these two players time to dribble and possible cut inside would be most dangerous and is likely to give Troyes licence to shoot from distance and potentially score.

Along with the impressive Camus, Benjamin Nivet is sure to be the man to watch. Playing in a position just behind Yattara, Nivet has contributed 8 goals and 2 assists for Troyes so far. His ability to provide through his through balls means that if he is not closed down quickly, he is likely to cause problems. Either Barton or Romao must decide who is to press Nivet quickly. Once the ball has left Nivet, both players can drop deeper if needed, or push out and attack the defensive midfield line of Othon and Xavier. But it is important that Nivet is pressed immediately, this is something that did not happen with Beckham midweek and he was given the freedom to spray the ball around with ease, of course Beckham was playing deeper than Nivet will be expected to play, ensuring that Barton and Romao to not have to take up to advanced a position.

Possible Troyes line up (4-2-3-1):

Thuram

Faussurier Rincon Saunier N’Sakala

Othon Xavier

Bahebeck Nivet Camus

Yattara

 

Summary –

Having been in and out of the title race this season, last week’s defeat to psg, seemingly ruled OM out for good, however, with psg’s shock defeat at Reims this week, and Marseille’s game against Lyon next week, OM could end next Sunday only 2 points from top spot (I know there are a lot of variables in that, but what the hell!).

Marseille’s last 3 games against Troyes at the Velodrome have resulted in a Marseille 9-3 aggregate scorline, with Troyes winning only once in the last 7 meetings (0-1 in 2001). If Marseille want to ensure a Champions League qualification, which would be good progress for this squad, then they need to begin with a win over Troyes. This would put them 2 points clear of Saint-Etienne in 4th who face a tough game against Rennes next week.

 

Predicted score: Marseille 2v1 Troyes

 

Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)

Marseille 1.44

Draw 4.10

Troyes 8.00

 

 

Other Ligue 1 games

Montpellier 2-0 Rennes

Reims 1-0 psg

Bastia 1-0 Ajaccio

Toulouse 0-0 Evian

Sochaux 1-2 Nancy

Saint-Etienne 4-0 Nice

Lorient 1-1 Valenciennes

Brest v Lyon

Lille v Bordeaux

 

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)

Le Classique part 3 – psg v Marseille – 24/02/13 – Match Preview

psg  v OM

Sun 24/02/13 – 20:00 (UK – Live on ESPN Classic)

Parc des Princes, Paris

Ref. – Fredy Fautrel

Background –

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.

Marseille –

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.

Likely starting lineup:
OM v psg

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.

 

Summary –

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)

psg 1.50

Draw 3.80

Marseille 7.50

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

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)

Stade Brest 1-2 Marseille – Match Report

Barton Brilliance Brings A Close To Brest Curse

Barton v Brest

Joey Barton assisted 2 goals to help Marseille on their way to their first ever victory in Brest. Only days after a humiliating performance and result against Lyon, OM overcame history and form to take all 3 points back to the south coast from Brittany.

Early in the game it looked as though Marseille had decided to play in the same manner they did in the Olympico. Brest applied a great deal of the pressure in the opening 10 minutes, with 1st of all Barton giving away a cheap foul and then Nkoulou, who was booked, giving away a set-piece near Mandanda’s goal as OM tried to get a grip on the game.

Inside the rest of the opening 30 minutes, Marseille gradually improved. Amalfitano went close frist with a header, before Andre Ayew finished a neat one-two with his brother by curling a shot narrowly wide of Thebaux’s upright.

On 33 minutes a moment of genius saw Brest concede only their 4th goal at home this season. Barton found himself in space down in the left, cut a neat ball back to Diawara who thundered a shot home from the edge of the 18 yard box.

Very little changed in the rest of the first half, OM continued to dominate, and Thebeaux did his best to re-enact Elana’s heroics from the fixture last season. But, 5 minutes before half-time Marseille managed to concede from Brest’s first real attack on goal, from a set-piece, again! From a Brest corner, the original strike on goal was cleared on the line before Benschop headed home in front of the Brest ultras. To go in drawing at half-time was very unfair on OM, who had eradicated any fear of performing as weakly they did earlier this week.

As the second half began, Brest looked to push on a get a winner, with Licka and Benschop again going close. However, 10 minutes in, OM gained the upper hand again. Again the goal came from some neat OM interplay and again it was Barton who provided the assist. After winning the ball, Barton played a neat one-two with Valbuena, and from almost the same position he found himself in for OM’s first goal, he crossed for Andre Ayew to net past Thebaux. Remember, Brest had only conceded 3 goals in 8 games at home before this. Dede searching immediately to celebrate with his provider Barton was a particularly poignant moment and demonstrated just what sort of impact personally and professionally Barton has had on his fellow Olympians.

The remainder of the second half was fairly entertaining, from a neutrals point of view, with both teams looking for another goal, OM to kill off the game and Brest to preserve their home record. Brest looked particularly dangerous in the minutes up to, and including, time added on, and OM can thank Mandanda for some fine saves, and the referee for waving away a penalty appeal by Chafni (how’s that for a paradox of last year’s game?!)

Not only was this win important for team morale, after the Olympico, it also puts to rest one of Marseille’s ‘hoodoo’ grounds, shame we have to wait until next season to try again at Bordeaux. The negatives in the team and individual performances from Wedenesday were put to rest, with Diawara grabbing a goal and Barton dominant defensively and outstanding offensively.

MarseilleUK Man of the Match: Joey Barton. 2 fantastic Ligue 1 performances out of 3 now for the Englishman, but his contribution in everything Marseille did today couldn’t be rivalled by any Olympian on the pitch. His vision for finsing space for himself and for team mates, was perfectly demonstrated in the 2 goals Marseille scored today. Make no mistake, if Barton didn’t play today, Marseille would not have won.

Full report and links to goals and highlights to follow.

Allez l’OM,

Swanny (@MarseilleUK @Andrew_Js3)

Marseille v Lille – Match Preview

Sun 25/11/12 – 20:00 (UK – Delayed on ESPN)

Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Ref. – Laurent Duhamel

Background –

After a European expedition to be forgotten for both teams, Marseille and Lille may now feel that domestic competitions will take their full focus as they try and prise psg’s grip off the various trophies available. After weeks of poor luck with injuries, suspensions and results OM at least have the positive of welcoming back Loic Remy from injury and Joey Barton is in line to make his Ligue 1 debut.

Marseille –

The Marseille squad for the game consists of: Mandanda, Fabri, Fanni, Abdallah, Diawara, Nkoulou, Mbow, Morel, Cheyrou, Kabore, Barton, Abdullah, A. Ayew, Valbuena, Raspentino, J. Ayew, Remy and Jobello.

The worries over the fitness of Valbuena (back) and Nkoulou (groin) seem to have been overcautious as both were included in the official squad release. Both Mendes and Amalfitano miss out though so if Valbuena and Nkoulou suffer a set-back, the squad will be stretched even further!

The inclusion of Barton in the starting eleven is likely to give a much needed lift to the OM squad and fans alike, as Baup tries to re-discover some of the early season discipline and strength that gave OM so many victories. Barton can support the striking qualities of Remy, with his ability for lofted passes and crosses from wide and deep angles also likely to cause potential problems for Basa and Chedjou in central defence, although there are fitness concerns over the latter and David Rozenhal may deputise.

With out a doubt Marseille’s most dangerous forward player has been Valbuena in recent weeks, with some of his link-up play and close ball control just being a delight to watch. If he can keep himself on his feet more, he will really damage any team on his day, and if he attacks down the right avoiding Debuchy he is likely to see more success.

Likely starting line up:

 

Who are they? –

As mentioned earlier, Lille’s European form has been poor, and their early season Ligue form wasn’t much better. It took them until the 8th week to pick up their 2nd win, but since then their form has improved and so have their results. Last week’s defeat at the hands of Lorient can be taken with a pinch of salt as Lorient are one of those teams who can (and often do) beat anyone on their day.

Aurelien Chedjou has been Lille’s rock at times this season. His performances from centre back have resulted in 3 goals from 16 games so far. On the ground Remy may find it difficult to get past Chedjou, and may stand a better chance in aerial challenges. The class of Dubuchy should go without saying but Andre Ayew will have to play one of his best games of the season if he is to have much luck against him. Up-top, the enigmatic Nolan Roux can be an incredibly difficult striker to play against. He manages to get himself into good positions, albeit sometimes offside ones, and can lose defenders easily, although as his 3 goals from 12 appearances will tell you, he often lacks consistency.

Summary –

With the some of the other top teams slipping up this weekend a god win for either team would keep them within touching distance of the Ligue 1 summit (OM would be joint 1st, whereas Lille would be 3 points behind that). Once again, Marseille will come up against a team that can be disciplined and difficult to break down, however, this is often when they have done well this season. Joey Barton may just be the man to light the blue touch paper and re-ignite Marseille’s season. If he is to do this, he will need to put in his best performance in an OM shirt. Tight game expected, though probably entertaining as it is not broadcast live.

Predicted score: Marseille 2v1 Lille   

Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)

Marseille 2.25

Draw 3.00

Lille 3.50

 

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)

 

Other Ligue 1 Fixtures

Saint-Etienne 1-0 Valenciennes

psg 4-0 Troyes

Reims 0-0 Brest

Rennes 0-1 Evian

Bastia 2-1 Lorient

Nancy 1-1 Ajaccio

Sochaux 0-1 Nice

Montpellier v Bordeaux

Toulouse v Lyon

Marseille v Lyon – ‘Olympico’ Preview

Sun 28/11/12 – 20:00 (UK) – Delayed on ESPN 9:45

Stade Velodrome

Ref. – Clement Turpin

Background –

Exactly 1 month after the game was originally due to take place Marseille take on Lyon as both teams have the opportunity to go top of the Ligue 1 table. Both teams form have faltered a little recently after strong starts to the season, although Lyon managed to continue their excellent form in the Europa League, qualifying for the knock-out stage with a game to spare, something OM didn’t manage. Regardless of tonight’s result one of the teams will knock psg off their perch. Because of this, there will be much more riding on this game than simply ‘bragging rights’ or ‘history’ as a victory for either team will confirm their title credentials.

Marseille –

In the last month Marseille have picked up 2 good wins in Ligue 1, away to Ajaccio, 2-0, and last week’s 1-0 home win over Lille. If Marseille perform with the discipline that they did in those 2 games then they have every chance of overcoming Olympic Lyonnais in the ‘Olympico’. Last season’s game saw Marseille race into a 2-0 lead only to be pegged back 2-2. This brought about an end to Marseille’s tremendous mid-season run of form that had seen them climb the table.

Marseille have no new injury concerns or absentees for this game. The 18 man squad consists of Mandanda, Fabri, Fanni, Abdallah, Diawara, Nkoulou, Morel, Mendes, Mbow, Kabore, Cheyrou, Barton, Abdullah, Valbuena,  A. Ayew, Remy, J. Ayew, Raspentino, Remy.

The starting line-up is likely to be the same as the 11 that started against Lille, with Diawara, Barton and J. Ayew keeping their places after impressive performance. Although he was caught of positions on a few occasions much of this might be down to the lack of starting football for Diawara this season. Barton’s delivery and tackles were among the best we have seen from him in a Marseille shirt and as he managed to have the ball in the net twice it would seem unfair to drop Jordan Ayew. Remy may make a late appearance as Baup tries to build up his fitness again to bring him into first 11 contention.

Having changed from the usual 4-2-3-1 formation used in the earlier part of the season, Baup will probably keep the 4-3-3 formation that worked so well against Lille. This formation allowed Barton to press forwards, and the team also maintained its width through Valbuena, while supporting Jordan Ayew with 2 secondary strikers.

Likely starting line-up and formation:

 

Who are they? –

Having finished 4th in Ligue 1 last season, many had feared for Remi Garde’s team this campaign. With losing Hugo Lloris, and also losing Cris, Pied, Cissokho and Kalstrom, Lyon’s squad looks quite bare. Thankfully for les Gones they managed to keep hold of Gomis, Bastos and Lopez, all of whom were linked with moves away. Ahead of this game Garde is missing Lopez, Briand and Lovren through injury and may choose expeirnece over youth with Reveillere and Bastos gaining starts despite only just returning from injury.

Mr. Consistent for Lyon this season has been Steed Malbranque. (In all honesty, that is not something I expected to write at any point this season, especially not for a team like Lyon). From what I have witnessed and from the stats and reviews, Malbranque has been a dominating force in the OL team. His composure and experience has shone through, and his ability to dictate the pace of the game has rarely been matched by any opposition. Lacking in speed, Malbranque manages to get into position early, allowing himself to either play in team-mates with accurate passes, or dribble with the ball. Because of his ‘low centre of gravity’ he can be very difficult to disposes and tackle.

In the midfield battle it may be up to Kabore to pick up Malbranque from his central position. Marseille need to be fully aware of the pace that Lyon can counter-attack with. Dropping deeper early, could actually help against a counter-attacking team. Although there is more space for the opposition to attack it allows the defenders to settle into a position and begin to push the attacking play out wide, away from the goal, allowing the midfield an opportunity to track-back into more central positions and defend against any crosses.

Summary –

Because of the position of both teams in the table it would be easy to argue that there is less pressure on these 2 sides collectively ahead of this game. No matter what the result, one of the teams will end the night 1st in the Ligue standings. Having said that, the benefits of a win do add pressure to the players. A win for OM and they go 3 points clear, Lyon would go 2 points clear with a win, and a draw would put OM 1 point clear and Lyon joint 2nd with psg. Unlike last year’s Coupe de la Ligue final, hopefully the pressures of the occasion will bring out the best of 2 teams eager to show that they are real title contenders and this ‘Olympico’ can be a real ‘classique’.

Predicted score: Marseille 2v2 Lyon   

Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)

Marseille 2.10

Draw 3.20

Lyon 3.60

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)