Olympique de Marseille midfielder Morgan Sanson says the biggest difference this season is that everybody is behind the coach. OM host Rennes on Sunday evening in Ligue 1 Conforama.
Olympique de Marseille - Stade Rennais FC
Portuguese coach André Villas-Boas was appointed in the summer following the exit of Rudi Garcia and has overseen a six-match unbeaten run from which OM have claimed 12 points. Sanson told Radio Maritima: "Frankly, compared to last season the whole squad is behind the coach. All the players are behind him and that's the difference. It's a huge difference."
Selection problems for AVB
OM boss Villas-Boas is in a situation where many of his selections for the Rennes clash will be made by default. Dimitri Payet is serving the second of a four-game ban following his red card against Montpellier last Saturday and defender Boubacar Kamara is also banned, sitting out the second match of his two-game ban. With summer signing Alvaro Gonzalez out for a further month, Duje Caleta-Car and young Lucas Perrin are again likely to be the centre-halves on Sunday.
Japanese international Hiroki Sakai went off fifteen minutes from time in the 0-0 at bottom club Dijon suffering with cramp and ankle pain. Should Sakai fail to make it then Bouna Sarr will be needed at right-back and that could mean a start for Nemanja Radonijc or Isaac Lihadji further forward in the ongoing absence of long-term injury victim Florian Thauvin.
Derby setback for Rennes
Rennes suffered a rare derby loss at Nantes, losing at La Beaujoire for the first time since January 2005. Julien Stéphan's team head into Week 8 a point behind OM in a condensed table and with European qualification aspirations well and truly intact despite the midweek setback.
Stéphan, 39, has already forged quite a reputation, winning the Coupe de France last season and impressing with his tactics and coaching philosophy. Stéphan has brought the best out of Mbaye Niang, the Senegalese international forward he made captain against LOSC in Week 6 in the absence of usual skipper Damien Da Silva.
Niang: Stéphan reminds me of Allegri
An impressed Niang told Rennes Sport: "I am really fortunate in that I have a special relationship with the coach. From the moment he came in he put me in the best possible conditions. He can say anything to me and is always frank. When I wasn't playing well he told me and he did the same when I played well. He maxes me think of Massimo Allegri, who was my coach at AC Milan."
Rennes have failed to win ant of their last three Ligue 1 Conforama matches against OM, with both of last season's meetings resulting in a share of the points. Sunday's match is a major test for both sides and Rennes will hope to take advantage of OM's depleted squad to score a fifth win at OrangeVélodrome since the 2011-2012 season. Only Paris Saint-Germain have a higher number of victories at OM this decade.
Olympique de Marseille: Mandanda; Skai, Perrin, Caleta-Car, Amavi; Lopez, Strootman, Sanson; Sarr, Benedetto, Germain
Rennes: Mendy; Traoré, Da Silva, Gélin, Morel, Maouassa; Bourigeaud, Camavinga, Grenier; Raphinha, Hunou