Garcia aiming high as Marseille chase Europe
By A. Scott
Olympique de Marseille have the chance to turn up the heat on their rivals in the race for European qualification by playing first this weekend as they go to struggling AS Nancy Lorraine on Friday.
AS Nancy Lorraine - Olympique de Marseille
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Marseille are fresh from producing a superb performance to beat AS Saint-Etienne 4-0 at the Orange Vélodrome last weekend, when a brilliant Florian Thauvin scored twice with Bafétimbi Gomis and Dimitri Payet also on target. With five games remaining they are sixth, which might be enough for a European spot depending on who wins the Coupe de France.
For now, OM are chasing the two teams above them - they are a point behind Girondins de Bordeaux in fifth and three adrift of Olympique Lyonnais in fourth. Lyon have a game in hand too, following the abandonment of their match at SC Bastia last weekend, so catching them might be a big ask. Nevertheless, an ambitious Rudi Garcia is urging his team to set their sights on fourth.
"We don't know what will happen with the Bastia-Lyon game, but we need to target fourth place now. After that we will see where we end up. We were not programmed for that at the beginning but at least we know if we win our last five matches we will finish fifth. So let's start by winning the next game. That will be the hardest," said the Marseille coach ahead of the trip to the Stade Marcel Picot.
Watch: Brilliant OM swat aside Saint-Etienne
"We are not looking at Lyon, we are looking at Bordeaux who are just in front of us. Europe is within reach and the sacrifices needed over the next month to get there will be worth it. It is not going to be easy, but if we all want it we can get it. In psychological terms we must not give up."
Marseille have been inconsistent under Garcia but they are now six games unbeaten in Ligue 1 since their 5-1 home drubbing by Paris Saint-Germain at the end of February. That has set them up nicely for a run-in which includes a home meeting with OGC Nice and a trip to Bordeaux that could decide who finishes fifth.
OM have won just three times on their travels all season, though, so they should take nothing for granted here, especially as leading scorer Gomis will be missing. Only recently back from an injury lay-off, he got his 17th league goal of the campaign last weekend but serves a suspension in Nancy and will be missed.
"Clinton Njie did very well filling in when Gomis was injured," said Garcia. "He offers us something different going forward and is a considerable asset. In the absence of Gomis, whether it is him or Rémy (Cabella), we have found solutions and it will need to be the same on Friday."
Marseille have won on each of their last five visits to Nancy, who are currently scrapping to pull clear of the relegation zone. Pablo Correa's side come into the weekend above the relegation play-off place only on goal difference, and they are just two points ahead of Dijon FCO in 19th.
Survival at stake
The Lorraine outfit desperately need points, all the more so with a trip to local rivals FC Metz and a home clash with AS Monaco up next. But recent form provides little cause for optimism, with Nancy having won just one of their last 11 outings, picking up just four points from a possible 33. Last weekend they lost 3-1 away to OGC Nice.
Watch: Nancy go down to Nice
"We watched their match against Saint-Etienne and you can see that going forward the amount of potential they have is mad. It is up to us to do our job going forward and not concede to them," said the midfielder Antony Robic, who hopes the pitch at the Stade Marcel-Picot will help the home side.
"The synthetic surface is an advantage to us as we train and play on it. We have 95 minutes and we must not come out with any regrets. We must show that we can be a good team, and that the three points are maybe more important to us. We are playing for our survival after all."
Nancy will nevertheless have to do without defender Joffrey Cuffaut, who has played more games than anyone else in Correa's squad this season, for a match that will go ahead in front of a full house of around 20,000.
AS Nancy Lorraine: Ndy Assembé; Cétout (c), M.Diagne, Chrétien, Badila; Guidileye, Pedretti, Aït-Bennasser; Dia, Dalé, Maouassa
Olympique de Marseille: Y.Pelé; Sakai, Rolando, Fanni, Evra (c); M. Lopez, Vainqueur, M. Sanson; Thauvin, Njie, Payet