OM focus against resurgent Nancy
By D. Crossan
Olympique de Marseille must put the looming double confrontation with Paris Saint-Germain to the back of their mind when they host bottom club Nancy at the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday. Live scoring from 21:00 CET.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
A 2-1 win at Rouen (National, D3) in the Round of 32 of the French Cup on Wednesday set up a Round of 16 clash at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday February 27, a mere three days after the title rivals meet at the Parc des Princes in Ligue 1.
PSG disposed of OM 2-0 at the Round of 16 stage of the Coupe de la Ligue in the capital, while André-Pierre Gignac and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both scored doubles in the 2-2 Ligue 1 draw on the south coast. It will only be the second time in history that OM will have played PSG four times in a single season, the previous time being in 1974-1975.
OM coach Elie Baup said: "It's exceptional but my only regret is that the draw means we'll have played both Cup ties at their ground and not at home. Winning becomes a habit and I'm not inventing anything by saying that. The Rouen game had everything reunited to be a banana skin, what with the atmosphere and our opponents. We avoided the trap even if we again had problems defending set-pieces."
Baup had the satisfaction of seeing new signing Modou Sougou mark his first OM appearance since joining from Romanian club CFR Cluj with a fortuitous goal, the pacy Sougou slipping as he made contact with the ball and Rouen keeper Théo Defourny, on loan from Olympique Lyonnais, deemed to have carried the ball over the line.
Senegalese wide-man Sougou has been likened to Jonathan Pitroïpa of Rennes in style and impressed Baup with his debut on the right of the OM attack: "He worked hard on his flank. He takes the ball well and did some good things. It augurs well for the future even if he's not yet 100% physically after a long winter break."
January signing Foued Kadir's Algeria have been knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations, but OM will have to wait a bit longer for fellow mercato capture Jacques-Alaixys Romao (Togo) and long-serving midfielder Charles Kaboré (Burkina Faso) to return from South Africa.
Gabriel upbeat... relatively
Nancy coach Patrick Gabriel - who was signed to a season-long deal this week after stepping in as interim boss when Jean Fernandez was sacked in January - said his club's survival chances had risen from 2% to 4% after the long-awaited second victory of the season, a 2-1 win at home to Lorient. It was their first since the opening day of the season and the 1-0 home success against Brest, which remains Ligue 1's basement club's only clean sheet of the campaign.
Gabriel's charges have been rather more effective in front of goal of late - Nancy having scored in every game since a 1-0 loss to PSG in Week 10 - and Cameroonian forward Paul Alo'o Efoulou has been leading the way in 2013 with four goals in as many appearances in all competitions. Frozen out under Gabriel's predecessors Jean Fernandez and Pablo Correa, Alo'o Efoulou marked his first league start since December 2010 with Nancy's opener against Lorient.
Alo'o Efoulou praise
Gabriel said: "Paul is a fox in the box; he's adroit in front of goal, gets in the box and has that rare quality for an attacker of often being in the right place at the right time when the ball falls to stick the chance away. His one defect is that he needs the team to play for him; he needs us to play high up the pitch so he can get into the box. In the last two years he's suffered a lot but I've put him back in and he's shown up well. If we play from deeper then we need someone who can run in behind and use the space on the break and that's where Benjamin Moukandjo and Djamel Bakar are strong. If we're higher up the pitch then Paul is more useful. There are tactical choices to be made."
Alo'o Efoulou added: "When you're a competitor you want to give what you can for the team. I'm happy. If I hadn't had the week with two goals in the French Cup and then one in the league, then maybe things wouldn't be going the way they are. Now things are positive. I've always been of the attitude that you have to fight no matter what."