Marseille on the right road - Sakai
By A. Scott
Japan full-back Hiroki Sakai is confident Olympique de Marseille are moving in the right direction as they prepare to host in-form Angers SCO on Friday in their quest to snatch European qualification.
Olympique de Marseille - Angers SCO
OM come into the weekend fresh from a resounding 4-1 victory away to FC Lorient last time out, achieved thanks to goals from Jorge Rolando, Dimitri Payet, Florian Thauvin and Morgan Sanson, the latter scoring his first for the club since signing in January.
That result was a welcome boost for Marseille after successive home defeats at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco between league and cup that saw them concede a total of nine goals. Now they know a win against Angers will lift them, provisionally at least, above Girondins de Bordeaux into fifth and put pressure on Olympique Lyonnais in fourth as they target a Europa League berth.
"To catch Lyon we can only think of winning, winning a maximum number of matches and getting as close to them as possible. I hope that come the end of the season we will be in front," right-back Sakai, 26, told reporters. "I think we are building on good foundations, more and more people are coming back to the Vélodrome. I feel there is a positive mood in Marseille."
Watch: Marseille romp to win at Lorient
It didn't feel that way after the humbling 5-1 defeat to PSG, but certainly Marseille's form at home this season has largely been good. However, on the whole they have been inconsistent since the turn of the year, with four wins and five defeats in nine league games. Coach Rudi Garcia knows they must do better if they are to achieve their European objective.
"We need consistency of performances and results. You can win games sometimes playing badly, with luck, but over time you need to perform well to keep on winning. At Lorient it was good in several aspects but now we need to confirm that," said Garcia, who has called for Thauvin to produce more of the form that saw him score one goal and lay on two more in Lorient.
"He needs to keep playing like he did at Lorient, that is the only way," Garcia said when asked if he thought Thauvin could earn a place in the France squad. "He is having a decent season but he is no longer a youngster and can still improve greatly. In any case it is very pleasant working with him, because he listens and wants to progress. He needs to do that if he is to knock on the door of Les Bleus."
Marseille are unlikely to find the going as easy against Angers as they did against a poor Lorient side. Stéphane Moulin's team are one of the form teams in France just now, with a 3-2 success away at SM Caen last time out their fourth win in a row in the league and their fifth on the bounce in all competitions.
The SCO have had seven wins and a draw in their last nine games all told, the exception being a 4-0 defeat at Toulouse. They were 19th after losing at Saint-Etienne on January 22 but have collected 16 points since then, with only Monaco and PSG (both 17) doing better. As a result, they have rocketed up to 10th place.
Watch: Angers edge Caen in five-goal thriller
"We are getting a few breaks at the moment, but I don't think that is entirely by chance," said Moulin after last week's game.
January signings Abdoulaye Bamba, Issa Cissokho and Jonathan Bamba have all proven influential, but just as important in the last couple of games has been the return of Karl Toko Ekambi. Back from winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon, he has scored three goals in the last two matches.
Marseille, who lost at home to Angers last season, are still without injured skipper and leading scorer Bafétimbi Gomis as well as Patrice Evra, Abou Diaby and Tomas Hubocan.
Marseille: Pelé; Sakai, Sertic, Rolando (c), Bedimo; Vainqueur, Zambo Anguissa; Thauvin, Sanson, Payet; Cabella
Angers: Michel; Cissokho, Traoré, Thomas (c), Manceau; N'Doye, Santamaria, Mangani; J Bamba, Diedhiou, Toko Ekambi