Kadir bidding to inflict misery on old club
By I. Holyman
Foued Kadir helped Valenciennes FC end Olympique de Marseille's unbeaten opening to the season, but on Saturday the Algerian international will be aiming to kickstart OM's second half of the campaign.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Olympique de Marseille - Valenciennes FC
If OM had needed any convincing of Kadir's qualities before moving to sign him in January, then the 29-year-old provided it as he scored one and teed up another as Valenciennes tore apart the previously unbeaten league leaders 4-1 in Week 7. "Valenciennes is still very fresh for me," Kadir, who made 82 L1 appearances for the northerners, told the press on Thursday. "I only left the club a few weeks ago, and it'll be strange to face my former team-mates."
Little place for sentiment
There will be little place for sentiment, however, with OM stumbling since the turn of the year. Though they have held on to third place despite a meagre return of five points from their last five league games, the six-point cushion they enjoyed over the team in fourth has since been slashed to just two with in-form AS Saint-Etienne now lurking uncomfortably close. Though their form has really dipped in 2013, it was their loss at the Stade du Hainaut which really the rot with just seven wins and 26 points from the 18 games since. "It was our first defeat, it was a real slap in the face," admitted midfielder Benoît Cheyrou, who will miss this weekend's encounter through injury. "They humiliated us, and I hope we'll remember that on Saturday."
Abdallah and Ayew banned
OM coach Elie Baup will have to do without both Kassim Abdallah and Jordan Ayew, dismissed in last weekend's 1-1 draw at Evian-Thonon-Gaillard FC. While Abdallah's red card was received for a professional foul, Ayew's was less inevitable, coming as it did for a second bookable offence a mere 111 seconds after he had stepped off the bench. "I waited for everything to calm down a bit and I spoke to Jordan for a long time: about his season, about how he's improved since the start of the season and that incident," explained Baup on Thursday. "He's only 21 and you have to look at the whole picture: he has enormous potential and is a great prospect, but sometimes you also have to sit back and take stock, and what happened at Annecy pushed us into doing that."
Valenciennes coach Daniel Sanchez has also been introspective in attempting to prevent his team spoiling what was the club's best start to a top-flight season since their return to L1 in 2006. If the winter break broke OM's stride, it positively stopped Valenciennes in their tracks, even if signs of the current malaise were beginning to show prior to the arrival of Santa Claus. Just a single point had been registered from their opening four games of the new year prior to last weekend's 2-1 triumph over Stade Brestois 29, a morale-boosting victory for a side that has dropped out of the top half of the table after enjoying the winter break in sixth.
Sanchez: "Table doesn't make for all that good reading"
"It's important and came at a good time. It'll do us good, but the table doesn't make for all that good reading. We weren't really in it for the first 15 minutes and didn't look solid at the back. We let them get their confidence back, and kept them in the game," said a far-from-satisfied Sanchez. "At 2-0, we should have stayed disciplined, and I'm slightly annoyed with the goal we conceded. It is anything but a footnote, and shows our current lack of rigour."
The fact OM have been stronger on their travels than at the Stade Vélodrome should be a source of optimism for the visitors. However, Valenciennes' chronic lack of away form, and the fact they have triumphed just twice in 24 previous visits suggests Kadir's reunion with his former club will be a happy one for him.