OM out to bolster top-three spot
By I. Holyman
Stuttering Olympique de Marseille face struggling Toulouse FC on Friday evening seeking to register the win that will reinforce their position on the Ligue 1 podium.
Toulouse FC - Olympique de Marseille
OM head into Week 28 in third place, but were fortunate to see those ahead of them fail to win last weekend after they had thrown away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at home to SM Caen, leaving Marcelo Bielsa's men still within touching distance of top spot.
Bielsa laments mistakes
The shock defeat to Caen followed three successive draws. Two of those, against Stade de Reims and AS Saint-Etienne, were the consequence of OM conceding last-minute equalisers, and Bielsa told media he was fully aware of the problem.
"There was an imbalance in defence. When we lost the ball, we were always outnumbered when we were defending. That's one of the mistakes we have to put right," said the Argentine. "If I look at the last three matches, where things shouldn't have happened and should have finished differently, we should have seven points more and we would be leaders three points ahead of our rivals."
Morel: 'Roll up our sleeves'
"The system asks for a lot of effort. As soon as we make a little less effort, you can see it straightaway," admitted defender Jérémy Morel. "You can see the difference with the first part of the season. It's a system that can work both ways. However, it's the players who are on the pitch. It's up to us to roll up our sleeves. Our pressing isn't as good as at the start. We're working on that in training. It was our strength, and that's what we're lacking right now."
That weakness has been all the more apparent away from home where OM are without a win in eight league trips and in ten competitive outings. They do, however, have the comfort of a good record in Toulouse where they are unbeaten on their last seven trips.
They will be hopeful of improving that record as Toulouse find themselves in dire trouble. Evian-Thonon-Gaillard FC's midweek win saw Alain Casanova's men drop into the relegation zone after a run of just two wins in their last 11 Ligue 1 outings.
There were more positive signs in their 1-1 draw with AS Saint-Etienne last weekend, though Casanova, who saw Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro strike a superb deserved late leveller at a rain-sodden Stadium, was wary of reading too much into the result.
"There's no reason for being either calm or desperate," said Ligue 1's longest-serving coach. "Everyone is fully aware of the situation. There's a determination to get us out of this situation by showing the rigour and discipline required. By working - I'm not going to say more but rather 'better' - and with great determination from everyone. Currently, that's the case, but I can't be happy with a draw against Saint-Etienne. In our situation, a draw isn't enough."
Casanova wary of OM reaction
Casanova, who spent two years at OM during his playing career between 1990 and 1992, has also been keeping a close eye on his former club.
"They're a team in difficulty, but you know full well that Marseille is used to going through difficult periods every season," stated the Toulouse boss. "One of their strengths is to be able to learn the lessons of those times and relaunch themselves. Right now, they're going through a little crisis in terms of results. But at the same time, their position is still very good for them to be able to achieve their objectives."
Toulouse: Boucher; Akpa-Akpro (c), Spajic, Kana Biyik, Mouboudjé; Grigore; Tisserand, Trejo, T. Doumbia, Braitwaite; Pesic (or Ben Yedder)
Marseille: Mandanda; Lemina, Aloé, J. Morel, Ben.Mendy; Romao, Imbula; Thauvin, Payet, A. Ayew; Batshuayi (or Gignac)