Friday, 25 November 2011

Know your enemy: Olympique Marseille

PSG's good start to the season has perhaps been made all the more sweet by the struggle of our rivals from the south.

After winning the title in 2010, and finishing runners up in 2011, Champions League qualification in 2012 is going to be a big ask for Didier Deschamps' Marseille. Ahead of tonight's Clasico at the Stade Veledrome (9pm), they languish in tenth in the Ligue 1 table, 15 points behind PSG and a hefty 10 behind third-placed Lille, albeit with a game in hand.

To make matters worse, a 1-0 midweek defeat to Olympiacos means OM now face a winner takes all clash with Borussia Dortmund to decide who progresses to the knock-out stage.

The possible reasons for Marseille's poor form this season are myriad, and explored nicely in this excellent article by @OMarseilleUK, and the pressure on Deschamps' water-carrying shoulders was increased this week after a row with striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, who threw his toys out of the pram after being named as substitute for the Olympiacos match. Deschamps subsequently dropped the forward from the squad all together.

"What happened happened," Deschamps told France Football. "A decision was made, and I'm not interested in the future of Andre-Pierre Gignac.

"What interests me is Sunday's game (...) the group works to prepare for the big game ahead. We must be sure to have the answer because OM-PSG games always have a special flavor.

"We know our position in the league, and we find that Paris is one of the favorites for the title in terms of potential and position. There are all the ingredients for a great match and it will be up to us to get a result.

"It is also an important game with what it means for the city and the fans. This is not an ordinary match."

No pressure then. Personally I'm a bit gutted Gignac isn't in contention, as I've never rated the ex-Toulouse man. But it will be interesting to see whether, in his absence, the rest of the players get behind Deschamps or whether divisions have been created and/or widened in the squad.

What is for certain is that Marseille's passionate supporters will expect their side to get on the front foot, and that could play into PSG's hands if they leave space for Nene, Pastore, and the returning Jezza Menezza to counter-attack. On the other hand, Loic Remy and co probably fancy their chances of breaching our dodgy defence, and the pressure is on PSG to regain top spot in the league after Montpellier's win yesterday saw them hit the summit.

The midfield battle could be crucial too. OM's Alou Diarra is due a big game, but he and Benoit Cheyrou are likely to have their work cut out if, as expected, Antoine Kombouare pairs Momo Sissoko with Blaise Matuidi in the engine room. The winners of this physical confrontation could also find themselves taking home the points.


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