Marseille fighting for survival at Angers
By S. Telford
The season's biggest over-achievers will welcome the 2015-16 campaign's principal under-achievers when Angers SCO entertain Olympique de Marseille at their Stade Jean-Bouin on Sunday evening.
Angers SCO - Olympique de Marseille
>> Live scoring and statistics from 17:00 CET
Few observers expected Angers' 2-1 victory in September's reverse fixture to be a shape of things to come for either the team newly promoted after a third-place finish in Ligue 2, or nine-time Ligue 1 champions Marseille. That result left Le SCO fifth and OM 15th after eight games played. Angers may have dropped to tenth in the time since, but Les Phocéens' subsequent travails cost coach Michel his job in April, and the south coast club come into this Week 36 encounter in 16th, just five places better off than Stade de Reims in the relegation zone.
Don't look back in Angers
Angers endured a disappointing start to 2016, but Wednesday's 0-0 draw with LOSC Lille means that Stéphane Moulin's side are now undefeated in their previous five league matches. It also means the hosts have only had three days of rest compared to Marseille's seven, but that was of little concern to Moulin in his post-match press conference.
"If I consider the last twenty minutes, I'm satisfied," said the former midfielder, who played nearly 150 times for Les Scoïstes between 1984 and 1990. "We had three great chances and (Vincent) Enyeama made two big saves. When you play against a stronger team than you, over time, it shows. But they never found the solution. I'm not surprised by my central defence. They have been remarkable. We stuck to our principles and earned a point. If we have not cracked it is because there is a soul in our team. My only regret and not having released the ball better in the second half. We came to win. We benefited from their fatigue because they were not on the pace early in the game. Now we have 50 points, it's great. It's a beautiful figure."
A case for the defence
That fine defensive display was managed without Ismaël Traoré and Vincent Manceau in the back four. Moulin will have to continue without that pair, with the former still serving a red card suspension and the latter not overcoming a groin injury in time to play.
For Marseille, this is a chance to ensure their stay in Ligue 1 stretches into a 20th consecutive season. A draw would be enough for Franck Passi's men to open up a six-point gap on Reims. Whilst not enough to mathematically ensure OM's survival, the 2009-10 champions have a goal difference which is 19 better than the Champagne club's. Worryingly, though, OM have failed to win in their last 11 league matches, with last Sunday's 1-1 draw with FC Nantes leaving Passi scrambling for positives.
"We lacked a lot of rhythm in the first half," said the interim coach. "But then there was this goal, that was a kind of accident, that took our confidence down below where it was at the start of the match, after we had won in Sochaux (to book a place in the Coupe de France final). After that, a man down, things were too tough. Since the beginning of the season, quite a few things have gone against us, but still the players haven't given up. In the face of adversity, equalising and taking points is very important."
Alaixys Romao is suspended until the Coupe de France meeting with Paris Saint-Germain following his dismissal against Nantes, leaving Passi with something of an injury-crisis in the middle of the park. Ligue 1 Player of the Year contender Lassana Diarra remains doubtful with a knee injury, whilst Mauricio Isla and Abou Diaby are also sidelined.
Angers: Letellier; Andreu, Saïss, Thomas, Bouka Moutou; Ndoye (c), Bourillon, Mangani; Sunu, Yattara, Ketkeophomphone
Marseille: Mandanda (c); Manquillo, Nkoulou, Rekik, Mendy; Anguissa, Barrada; Thauvin, Fletcher, Sarr; Batshuayi