Marseille glistening ahead of Strasbourg clash
Olympique de Marseille carry an intimidating run of form into their clash at RC Strasbourg Alsace, with three consecutive wins having lifted Les Phocéens up to third in the Ligue 1 Conforama table heading into Week 9.
RC Strasbourg Alsace - Olympique de Marseille
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The "OM Champions Project" was beginning to be mocked in certain quarters of the French press after back-to-back defeats - against AS Monaco and Stade Rennais FC - had left Rudi Garcia's men down in tenth.
But the nine-time French champions have been conjuring the form of old in recent weeks, with Week 8's 4-2 win at OGC Nice making it a perfect nine points from a possible nine. Better yet, OM played most of the final half hour with ten min, after Luiz Gustavo's sending off.
Watch: Highlights of Marseille's 4-2 win at Nice!
"We showed a lot of character and mental toughness," proclaimed Garcia at his post-match press conference. "To get to 3-2 up at half-time after being two goals down, you need to be tough - and the lads were. Bravo to them. We've won three in a row now, and if you put runs together you climb the table. We're in the top four now, a ranking that is one of our objectives."
To Russia with love
Many of the OM party bounce into the Stade de la Meinau in especially high spirits after a positive final round of FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Dimitri Payet, Adil Rami, Steve Mandanda, Florian Thauvin and Jordan Amavi were each part of the France squad who booked their automatic progress with victory over Belarus on Tuesday, while Kostas Mitroglou hit a brace as Greece beat Gibraltar 4-0 to ensure a play-off place.
The forward - a summer signing from Benfica - is now jostling for a first Ligue 1 Conforama start. Valère Germain, scorer of five UEFA Europa League goals so far this season but none in eight French top-flight games, could make way. Amavi, who recently made his loan deal from Aston Villa permanent, is likely to be given the nod at left-back ahead of veteran former France, Manchester United and Juventus star Patrice Evra.
Shoots of promise
Strasbourg begin the weekend in 19th, 16 places and 11 points worse off than Sunday's visitors. There have been shoots of promise at Le Racing of late, though, with the come-from-behind 1-1 draw at Dijon FCO before the international break leaving Garcia's opposite number Thierry Laurey in optimistic mood.
Watch: Highlights of Strasbourg's 1-1 draw with Dijon
"It's a point that does us a lot of good," said the coach, who guided Strasbourg back to Ligue 1 Conforama after a nine-year absence last term. "I think the draw is fair. We have technical and tactical weaknesses that are sometimes glaring, but they're getting less and we aren't lacking enthusiasm. We kept believing right to the end."
Laurey will have to contend with the absence of two first-team regulars against Marseille, though. Midfielder Benjamin Corgnet has a thigh strain while left-back Pablo Martinez has been ruled out for four weeks with an Achilles tendon injury.
Strasbourg: B.Kamara; Seka, B.Koné (cap), Salmier, Lala; J.Martin, Aholou, Liénard; Terrier; Bahoken, Da Costa
Marseille: S.Mandanda; Sakai, Rami, Rolando, Amavi; Zambo Anguissa, M.Sanson; Thauvin, Payet (cap), Njie; Mitroglou