Title contenders clash in a pre-Christmas cracker at the Stade Vélodrome…
Searching For Inspiration
Although recording a surprise 1-0 victory against Chelsea in the Champions’ League earlier this month, Olympique de Marseille’s Ligue 1 form has in recent weeks remained unconvincing. Lying fifth in the table, two points behind third-placed Lyon, their 1-1 draw with AJ Auxerre last week was the latest in a series of unspectacular performances, which has seen les Phocéens without a victory in their last three matches.
Nonetheless, Marseille remain positive, with captain Lucho Gonzalez telling the club website: “The team is going through a period without regularity in the results, but there is no frustration, football is like that, to win you must score goals.
“This will be a good match between two teams vying for the title. It will be important to win, but above all a real pleasure to play this kind of encounter.”
This week has seen the arrival of Rod Fanni from Rennes on a two and a half year contract, providing cause for optimism and a welcome boost to the Marseille defence.
In spite of their inability to find a decisive goal against Auxerre, Marseille were largely dominant, and unfortunate to concede a penalty and be reduced to ten men during the first-half. Regardless, this is certainly not the form of champions, and Marseille will be hoping that a victory against their title rivals could prove the catalyst for a domestic winning streak.
On The Ascent
Like Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais have by no means reached their full potential this season, exhibiting particularly disappointing form in the Champions’ League of late. On the domestic front, conversely, les Gones sit only two points behind league leaders Lille, and are enjoying something of a renaissance.
After a disastrous start to the season, widespread calls amongst supporters for the dismissal of manager Claude Puel, and rumours of dressing room discontent, Lyon appear to have achieved a semblance of order, playing with confidence and picking up 24 points from a possible 30 in their previous ten Ligue 1 encounters.
Although lacking key players through injury, such as Yoann Gourcuff, last Sunday’s 2-0 victory against Toulouse was crisp and assured. Explaining their improvement since the start of the season, Lisandro Lopez emphasized that “there are still things to improve, but over time the team makes fewer mistakes and gets better. The reason is collective, not individual”.
With regard to the clash against Marseille, Lisandro suggested that “it will be important for morale, but not decisive in view of the title”.
And indeed, a positive result for Lyon is imperative in maintaining the optimistic atmosphere at the Rhône club, as well as ensuring that Marseille do not leapfrog them in the Ligue 1 table.
While Didier Deschamps will be handing Rod Fanni his Marseille debut this weekend, he will be concerned with absences in the remainder of his squad. Stephane Mbia is suspended following his red card against Auxerre, while Souleymane Diawara also begins his suspension. Brandao (ankle) is doubtful, and Cesar Azpilicueta, Edouard Cissé (thigh) and Hilton are sidelined through injury until January.
It will be a severely depleted Lyon squad that travels to the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday. Claude Puel faces a lengthy injury list including key players Yoann Gourcuff (ankle) and Jérémy Toulalan (thigh), but a more pressing concern will be the heart of defence, where les Gones will be without both Cris (adductor) and Pape Diakhaté (thigh). Right-back Anthony Réveillère is also doubtful following a calf-strain picked up against Toulouse. Cesar Delgado, Ederson and Clément Grenier are also unavailable.