Olympique de Marseille's new coach Andre Villas-Boas will get his first real taste of the special Stade Orange Vélodrome atmosphere when his side kick-off their Ligue 1 Conforama challenge against Stade de Reims on Saturday.
Olympique de Marseille - Stade de Reims
Following the departure of Rudi Garcia after a turbulent 2018/19 campaign, Villas-Boas has been appointed to put a smile back on the faces of the Marseille faithful, who will undoubtedly turn out in force and in guardedly optimistic mood for the opening league game of the season.
The upbeat outlook comes on the back of OM performing well in the EA Ligue 1 Games in the USA, seeing off French top-flight rivals Girondins de Bordeaux and AS Saint-Étienne before an 8-1 romp to victory against MLS franchise DC United. '
They ended their preparations with a 1-0 defeat to Italian heavyweights Napoli, but Villas-Boas' tenure has started positively with the club's youth academy prospects coming to the fore. Mario Balotelli has left leaving Villas-Boas looking for options up front, and Dimitri Payet was tried there against Napoli with a degree of success.
WATCH: Reims beat OM in Champagne country last season
With new signing Dario Benedetto unlikely to make his debut until the second game of the season, Payet could lead the line against Reims with Villas-Boas seeking for his side to get the Vélodrome crowd on side quickly.
"It was already an incredible experience against Napoli, all that intensity. For those sorts of pre-season games, you have a different crowd, tourists, families that come, often for the first time," said the ex-Porto, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Zenit St. Petersburg coach. "Against Reims, with our supporters, with the season-ticket holders, it'll be another new adventure, one that I'm looking forward to."
While Luiz Gustavo is fit, Maxime Lopez is struggling and Florian Thauvin is not expected to feature until the end of the month as the FIFA World Cup winner recovers from an ankle injury sustained in pre-season.
Reims, who performed excellently in finishing eighth in their first season back in the top flight, swept through pre-season unbeaten, and defeated English Premier League newcomers Sheffield United 3-1 in their final outing.
The departure of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy for Stade Rennais is a major blow, but with coach David Guion and his squad having coped more than admirably with everything thrown at them so far, Villas-Boas is aware his team will have their work cut out to make a winning start.
"We watched their win over Sheffield. They're well organised defensively, they look for the space in behind their opponents," explained the Marseille boss. "They work well going forward. They're a well put together side, not the ideal team to start the French league for us.
"It'll be difficult for us, we didn't win against them last season, and we have to use that as motivation for revenge. At the Vélodrome, we have to play well, take initiative and keep possession. We have good technical players and have to make use of that. Of course, that kind of play gives your opponents opportunities, but we have worked on that in training, notably Reims' attacking transitions, the way they look deep and the responses we have to provide. I hope we'll be up to the task."
OM: Mandanda; Sakai, Kamara, Caleta-Car, Amavi; Sanson, Luiz Gustavo, Strootman; Sarr, Payet, Radonjic
Reims: Rajkovic; Foket, Disasi, Abdelhamid, Kamara; Chavalerin, Romao; Oudin, Dingomé, Doumbia; Dia