Boosted by their recent form, les Phoceens host les Rouge et Noir aiming to go three points clear in Le Championnat...
Olympique de Marseille could strike the first crucial blow in the race for the Ligue 1 title on Wednesday evening when they host Stade Rennais. No side has yet managed to get a real stranglehold on France’s top flight this season since Toulouse opening up a four point advantage at the summit after four games, but Didier Deschamps’ men could go three points clear of the chasing pack with a win on Wednesday.
The momentum in the Marseille ranks is strong. After defeating Spartak Moscow in the Champions League only a week ago, they booked their place in the knock-out stages of the competition for the first time in nearly two decades. Though Chelsea have still to visit the Stade Velodrome, that fixture can largely be discounted as a glamorous friendly; for the moment, Ligue 1 takes top priority.
If there were doubts over the defending champions’ present form, they were firmly answered on Saturday evening. Hosting Montpellier, a side with a formidable defensive record, OM produced some of their most efficient football of the campaign as they ran out 4-0 winners, with a serious injury to Cesar Azpilicueta the only black spot on an otherwise flawless evening.
“It's never easy to get back to the league especially against a side that's obtained such good results away from home,” Deschamps indicated. “We put in a very good performance, very technical and fluid. And it's good for us to have scored four goals.”
Opposing coach Rene Girard explained that “Marseille are re-taking control of French football”, and having watch their winning style in recent weeks, it’s difficult to disagree.
Clean Up The Mess
Rennes were one of the pretenders to Marseille’s throne earlier in the season, moving into top spot in Ligue 1 thanks to a victory over Toulouse on the first weekend of October. Though the Bretons managed to remain in pole position over the course of the month, they would not win again until November as the pack bunched up behind them.
Ultimately their inability to build upon a strong start to the season would cost them, and they have since slipped back to fifth, having lost a local derby 2-0 against Lorient on Saturday. Frederic Antonetti’s side may boast a strong midfield and a relatively formidable defence, but after selling Asamoah Gyan and Ismael Bangoura, and releasing Ligue 1’s top scorer at present Moussa Sow, they are badly bereft of natural goal scorers.
Victor Hugo Montano carried the can well in the early stages of the season, but after an injury he has struggled to rediscover his best form. As a result, Rennes have scored a paltry four goals in six matches and no longer look like a side capable of qualifying for the Champions League.
“When the players came in at half-time you never would have thought that we would play so badly in the second half,” explosive coach Antonetti explained to the media following the weekend’s game. “To sum it up, we made a complete mess of everything.”
Les Rouge et Noir may have posted some good results of late, but they’ve not won on their travels since September and will be hard pushed to get any change from OM.
Cesar Azpilicueta has ruptured the ligaments in his knee and will be missing until the end of the season. Hilton is the only other worry as Andre-Pierre Gignac has been passed fit to play.
There will be no space in the team for the injured Kader Mangane and Onyekachi Apam, while Fabien Lemoine is back training with the first team squad but is not available yet. Winger Sylvain Marveaux is out until the early stages of next year.