Toulouse desperate for points at Marseille
By A. Scott
Relegation-threatened Toulouse FC travel to the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday afternoon to face an Olympique de Marseille side unable to buy a win at home in recent times.
Olympique de Marseille - Toulouse FC
Pascal Dupraz, 53, was appointed as the new Toulouse coach on a deal through to 2018 after Dominique Arribagé stepped down in the wake of last weekend's 2-1 home defeat to Stade Rennais FC and this was supposed to be his first game at the helm of his new side.
However, the former Evian-Thonon-Gaillard FC coach, who has plenty of experience of relegation scraps from his previous job, will not be on the bench on Sunday after taking ill at training on Saturday and spending the night under observation in hospital.
Mickaël Debève, a member of the backroom staff, will take the team instead, and he will hope the Toulouse players take heed of Dupraz's optimistic noises when he spoke to the press before beginning a challenge that could scarcely be more difficult.
TFC ended last weekend 10 points from safety after losing to Rennes despite leading heading into the 90th minute at Le Stadium. They have gone eight Ligue 1 games without a win, picking up just two points from a possible 24, and have won just one of their last 12. In all competitions, Toulouse have gone 10 games without a win since beating Marseille in extra time in the Coupe de la Ligue quarter-finals in January.
However, at his unveiling, Dupraz said: "You don't stay 13 consecutive years in Ligue 1 without having certain virtues, strengths and convictions. These common values are shared by a lot of people here and that is something that has struck me since I arrived. The team are enthusiastic, well prepared and athletic. Good work has been done here. TFC have never been far away this season. We need to fight against any feelings of fatalism.
"I am realistic, but I am also optimistic. For me, the club has a one in two chance of staying up. Every team has 10 games left to play and the chance to get 30 points. Today we are still very much in Ligue 1. Only the players have the power to keep the club in the elite. Beyond that, our role is to keep loving them and helping them. We need to win a match as soon as possible, and to do that we need to create the appropriate atmosphere."
Dupraz has not had much time to get his ideas across as he looks to prove himself away from Evian, the club where he worked as sporting director before having three years as coach. In that time, he kept the Annecy-based side up twice before leaving after they dropped down to Ligue 2 at the end of last season.
"People doubt me and wonder if I am capable of being a coach away from my mountains. I hope to prove the optimists right and the doubters wrong. I like a challenge," he added, and he might also have added that a trip to Marseille presents the ideal opportunity to get off to a winning start.
Awful home form
After all, OM are on an awful run of 11 home league games without a win since September, although they are buoyed by their narrow 1-0 victory against fifth-tier side US Granville in Caen on Thursday in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France that saw them keep alive their hopes of lifting some silverware this season.
Michy Batshuayi got the only goal of the tie, his 18th of the campaign, to set up a trip to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in the next round in April, as Marseille won at Caen's Stade Michel-d'Ornano for the third time in 2016.
"It wasn't a great Marseille," admitted Batshuayi. "We just have to stick together, because we have an important match against Toulouse. It has been our little weakness - we have been better at developing our game against the big clubs, while we have struggled against the smaller sides."
Marseille's league campaign could still go either way. The postponement of their trip to GFC Ajaccio last weekend due to a waterlogged pitch in Corsica left them 13th in the table, albeit only six points adrift of Olympique Lyonnais in third and with a game in hand. They have won just once in six league games, but paradoxically their only defeat in their last 14 league outings came at home to Paris Saint-Germain.
Nicolas Nkoulou is again suspended for OM while Brice Dja Djédjé and Lucas Ocampos are absent, but Lassana Diarra should return to the starting line-up.
Marseille: Mandanda (c); Manquillo, Rekik, Rolando, Mendy; Alessandrini, Isla, Diarra, Cabella; Batshuayi, Fletcher
Toulouse: Lafont; Somália, Tisserand, Diop, Moubandjé; Blin, Akpa-Akpro, Doumbia, Trejo; Ben Yedder, Braithwaite