OM: Life without Gomis
By D. Crossan
Olympique de Marseille coach Rudi Garcia says he's got ideas as to how to make up for the absence of injured top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis, starting with Saturday afternoon's home game against Rennes.
Gomis scored both OM goals in the 3-2 loss at Nantes last Sunday before suffering a knee injury that's set to sideline the 16-goal man for between four and six weeks. The loss of the OM captain will be keenly felt as there is no natural senior back-up in the squad.
Garcia said: "There are lots of examples of teams who've lost their centre-forward. Napoli lost Milik early in the season and he was scoring half their goals. They still managed to score 50 times in between him getting injured in October and coming back this week against Real Madrid.
"What counts is how we play on attack and it is possible to score without a centre-forward. Spain have done it at times with Cesc Fabregas as a false nine. In Bafé's absence we must adapt. We proved we were capable of doing it when we beat Toulouse in the Coupe de France in early January. We took our chances. Rémy Cabella played well against Toulouse and Clinton Njie, in a different way, can also fill the role. We also have the possibility of inventing other solutions."
Njie to stand in for Gomis?
Njie was part of the victorious Cameroonian Africa Cup of Nations squad and could feature at club level for the first time since his return. On loan from Tottenham, Njie has scored three Ligue 1 goals this season and is a very different sort of forward to the predatory Gomis.
Garcia said: "Clinton is back and he's a happy man, but he only played a game and a half right at the start of the tournament. We needed to get him fit again. Now it's his time to show himself and ask questions of himself. He has all the qualities needed to play down the middle, in a very different way to Bafé. Clinton is an attacker who likes space, not a penalty box forward. He is very quick."
Rennes: No wins in nine
OM's league form in 2017 has been poor with four defeats accompanying two home wins and Saturday's match is an ideal opportunity to boost their European qualification prospects given Rennes haven't won in nine games, drawing their last five. That said, Gomis is injured, defenders Hiroki Sakai and Rod Fanni are both suspended and Lassana Diarra – finally – left the club this week.
One bit of great news for OM fans was 19-year-old midfielder Maxime Lopez penning a new contract through to 2021. Garcia commented: "At Marseille we need stars like Dimitri Payet and Patrice Evra, but we also need to promote quality youngsters from our youth system. We've done that with Max, who has his head on his shoulders, and we're delighted to have him on-board for the long-term."
Rennes allowed a two-goal lead to slip at home to Nice last week in a match which saw both Ramy Bensebaini (groin) and Joris Gnagnon (eight stitches to foot) go off injured. Coach Christian Gourcuff said: "Joris is back in training and should be fine for Marseille. There's more uncertainty over Ramy, though I'm confident he'll be OK too."
Gourcuff's son Yoann (thigh), Mexer (knee) and Raïs M'Bolhi (knee) are all missing but the Rennes boss still believes he has reason to be positive: "It's better when we play in 4-4-2," he said. "When our two wide players are midfielders then that changes everything in terms of our balance. It means we can play higher up the pitch. Morgan Amalfitano on one side and Benjamin André on the other aren't simply counter-attackers, they're players capable of defending, holding the ball and attacking."
Olympique de Marseille: Pelé; Zambo Anguissa, Sertic, Rolando, Evra; Sanson, Vainqueur, Lopez; Thauvin (c), Njie, Payet
Stade Rennais: Costil; Danzé (c), Gnagnon, Bensebaini, Baal; Amalfitano, Chantôme, Prcic, André; Mubele, Sio