OM and Thauvin in 'steamroller mode' for Monaco test
Olympique de Marseille welcome Ligue 1 Conforama champions AS Monaco to the Orange Vélodrome on Sunday on a seven-game winning streak and with Florian Thauvin in frightening form…
Olympique de Marseille - AS Monaco
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Those who witnessed Marseille's 6-1 dismantling at the hands of Monaco in Week 4 might have been forgiven then for laughing at any notion Frank McCourt's 'OM Champions Project' was on course. With Kylian Mbappé on the cusp of his big-money move from the principality to Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco leant on five different scorers on what was a miserable August day for Les Olympiens.
Marseille's fortunes have had a significant upturn since, though. In the following 18 league games, Rudi Garcia's men have only dropped nine points - where Sunday's visitors have let 16 slide - and they come into this Week 23 clash in third, a point better off than Monaco, and knowing that a win could take them second behind leaders PSG, provided incumbents Olympique Lyonnais slip up at Girondins de Bordeaux earlier on Sunday.
Watch: Highlights of Monaco's stunning 6-1 win in the reverse fixture!
A heavily rotated Marseille won through to the Coupe de France last 16 on Wednesday, with their 2-0 victory over fourth-tier SAS Épinal the club's seventh consecutive win in all competitions. Thauvin entered the fray for the final half hour and "did us good," according to Garcia. No goals or assists were added to the midfielder's tally on Wednesday, but for a player who has 11 of the former and ten of the latter thus far this season, his recent comments amid reported Europe-wide interest will be music to OM fans' ears.
Playing and having fun
"I'm not worried about the transfer window; I'm very happy at Marseille," said the 24-year, said to be attracting admiring glances from Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in what is an eminently impressive second spell at the south coast club. "I had a hard time fighting to get back to the club and I feel good here. The important thing is to play and have fun, and I'm doing that."
Jordan Amavi is Garcia's only injury concern for the Monaco game. The left-back has a thigh complaint so Japanese defender Hiroki Sakai is expected to continue filling in on his less natural side of the pitch. Dimitri Payet, Luiz Gustavo, Clinton Njié and Steve Mandanda were among those rested on Wednesday and will expect to be restored to the starting line-up, meanwhile.
No easy task
Monaco promise to make a game of it against Marseille, though. Leonardo Jardim's team may not be blazing the same trail they did last season, but they have been second for all but eight weeks of the current campaign, and their midweek Coupe de France defeat at Lyon's hands was little cause for concern for the Portuguese tactician.
Rony Lopes' late free-kick was not enough for Monaco to overturn Lyon in the Coupe de France
"It was an evenly balanced match, but Lyon enjoyed more good fortune and showed a sharper cutting edge," said Jardim of the 3-2 reverse. "At times, Lyon were on top; at times, we were. But Lyon scored three and we only managed two. That's how it is."
Guido Carrillo is unlikely to feature on Sunday with Monaco having accepted a bid from English Premier League side Southampton for the Argentine striker's services, while Brazil centre-back Jemerson has a thigh injury of his own. Accordingly, club captain Radamel Falcao is expected to lead the line, with Andrea Raggi playing alongside Kamil Glik at the back.
Whomever lines up for Monaco, Garcia is confident of breaking them down. "It's true that we seem to be in steamroller mode and that we'll break through sooner or later. Long may it continue," he said recently. Monaco have had eight wins and two draws from their last 11 games, though: Sunday's showdown promises to be a thriller.
Marseille: Mandanda; Sarr, Rami, Rolando, Sakai; Zambo Anguissa, Gustavo; Thauvin, Payet (c), Ocampos; Germain
Monaco: Subasic; Touré, Glik, Raggi, Sidibé; Coutinho, Fabinho, Lemar; Lopes, Falcao (c), Baldé
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