Marseille aim to confirm European place
By A. Scott
Olympique de Marseille are looking for a win to guarantee fifth spot and European football at the Orange Vélodrome on Saturday as they entertain SC Bastia, who themselves need a result to stand a chance of avoiding relegation.
Olympique de Marseille - SC Bastia
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Marseille's strong finish to the campaign has allowed them to come into their final game of the campaign primed to clinch a spot in next season's UEFA Europa League. They are fifth in the table, a point clear of Girondins de Bordeaux in sixth after coming from behind to draw 1-1 away at the Matmut Atlantique last time out thanks to a Bafétimbi Gomis goal, his 19th of the season.
Rudi Garcia's men know European football is in their hands, and even a draw or a defeat would still do if Bordeaux slip up in their game away to FC Lorient. Even if OM are overtaken by Jocelyn Gourvennec's men at the last, they will still enter Europe next season if Paris Saint-Germain beat Angers SCO in the Coupe de France final on May 27.
"We need to get the three points at the Vélodrome, and finish the job. I stressed that to the players as soon as the match at Bordeaux was over last Sunday," said Garcia. "We would have liked to have a last match with nothing at stake, but we suspected the last weekend would be decisive on many levels. We will respect Bastia. They will not gift us anything. But nor will Lorient against Bordeaux. We need to ensure we depend only on ourselves, not anyone else."
Watch highlights: Bordeaux 1-1 Marseille
Marseille are on a fine run of 10 games without defeat since the start of March, their last league loss coming at home to bitter rivals PSG. That painful 5-1 reverse is one of just two home league defeats they have suffered this season, and so it would be a major surprise if they stumbled here in their quest to return to Europe after a year away.
Garcia, meanwhile, says there is no question OM will be worried about what is happening in Lorient as they focus entirely on fulfilling their part of the bargain.
"If in the last few minutes both games are level and we settle for that, and then Bordeaux score in the last second...We are better off playing to win right to the end," he said. "It is a plus to be playing at home. But we need to forget the fact that we are unbeaten in 10 games and not be over confident. Bastia must be respected, and if we do that we will have every chance of winning."
Last chance for Bastia
Marseille are without the suspended Dimitri Payet, who was this week named in the latest France squad along with Florian Thauvin. However, Japan international right-back Hiroki Sakai can return after serving a ban in Bordeaux. He will start with OM looking to secure a European place that many thought beyond them when Garcia was appointed with the club in turmoil back in October.
"When I arrived, there was no objective fixed in terms of getting into the Europa League. For the moment we are fifth and if we end up qualifying for the Europe it will have been unexpected. But for the moment it is only virtual," said Garcia.
Bastia have only ever won once in Marseille on top-flight duty in 27 attempts, and that was in 1972. They come into this weekend in the automatic relegation places, two points from outright safety and a point adrift of Lorient in 18th. They will also be tempted to keep an ear out for events in Brittany - a draw for the Corsicans could be enough for them to salvage the play-off spot, provided Lorient lose and AS Nancy Lorraine, the bottom side, do not overtake them.
Watch highlights: Bastia 2-0 Lorient
Rui Almeida's men could be completely safe if they win and enough other results go their way - Dijon FCO and SM Caen are still in their sights and go to Toulouse FC and Paris Saint-Germain respectively. It is a big ask for Bastia but they gave themselves a chance by beating Lorient 2-0 last weekend in a home game played behind closed doors in Fos-sur-Mer, not far from Marseille.
"I said it would be decided at Marseille. This is our final," declared Almeida, who saw Enzo Crivelli score his 10th of the season to set Bastia on their way to victory over Lorient before a Gaël Danic stunner wrapped up the win. On-loan AS Monaco starlet Allan Saint-Maximin can play for the visitors after he was allowed to delay his departure to join the France squad for the under-20 World Cup.
Marseille: Pelé; Sakai, Fanni, Rolando, Evra; Sanson, Vainqueur, Lopez; Thauvin, Gomis, Cabella
Bastia: Leca; Keita, Djiku, El-Kaoutari, Bengtsson; Cahuzac; Coulibaly, Ngando, Onoangué, Saint-Maximin; Crivelli