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Europe at stake for Marseille and Lyon

Publish on 09/05/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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Olympique de Marseille welcome Olympique Lyonnais to the Orange Vélodrome on Sunday night with both teams in need of a maximum points haul in order to ensure their European ambitions for 2019-20.

Olympique de Marseille - Olympique Lyonnais 

Lyon begin the day in third, six points behind LOSC who occupy the second automatic UEFA Champions League place with nine left to play for. The stakes are perhaps even higher for hosts Marseille, who are seven points behind AS Saint-Etienne, with Les Verts currently in the fourth and final European spot.

Génésio going out with a bang

OL coach Bruno Génésio will depart at the end of the season, and is currently favourite to do so with European football ensured. Les Gones held second-place Lille to a 2-2 draw last Sunday, meaning they have picked up seven of the last nine possible points.

Génésio was less than delighted with the outcome at the Groupama Stadium, however.

"We're disappointed," he said. "It's a microcosm of our season: We play well, score goals, including two against the league's best defence, but then we concede too many, especially avoidable goals. It's difficult to score three or four to win a match. It's up to us to focus on what we have to do for the last three games."

In control... and form

Lyon's European destiny remains in their own hands, though. Sunday's visitors also beat OM 4-2 in September's reverse fixture, while the form of Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembélé - the former a scorer of two in his last three games; the latter the club's top scorer with 13, nine of them coming in 2019 - make the aforementioned three or four goals a distinct possibility.

Memphis has been linked with a move away from Lyon this season, but insists his focus is unwavering ahead of the Marseille game.

"I'm with Lyon and focussed on the match," he said. "I wake up every morning and I play for a big club in a beautiful stadium, the city is beautiful. I'm happy here. I arrived at 22 and grew up here. I'm grateful to Lyon for making me grow as a person."

Whether that personal development means continued deployment on the left wing to accommodate Dembélé remains to be seen, although what is sure is that Brazilian full-backs Rafael and Fernando Marçal remain sidelined with thigh and groin complaints respectively.

Marseille needing a favour

Marseille's chances of European football next term are slimmer than OL's, then, hinging as they do on the teams above them dropping points. If they lose, continental competition will have to wait until at least the 2020/21 campaign.

Mario Balotelli has hit the ground running since his January transfer from OGC Nice, meanwhile, scoring eight goals in 11 games, but the Italian has never scored in four career games against Lyon, while his attacking partner in crime Florian Thauvin is out with an ankle injury.

Les Phocéens were held to a 1-1 draw by RC Strasbourg Alsace last Friday, and Génésio's opposite number Rudi Garcia is worried that time is running out for his side this term.

Window closing?

"It's another disappointing result with the draw," he said. "We did some good things, but not enough to win the game. It was already difficult to qualify for Europe before this draw and now it's even more so. Every time we don't win, there are fewer matches left to play."

Right-back Bouna Sarr is rated as doubtful, so Hiroki Sakai could return to his natural right-hand side with left-back Jordan Amavi pushing for a return. Thauvin's absence should mean a start for club captain Dimitri Payet.

Possible teams

Marseille: Mandanda; Sakai, Kamara, Caleta-Car, Amavi; Sanson, Gustavo; Germain, Payet, Ocampos; Balotelli

Lyon: Lopes; Dubois, Marcelo, Denayer, Mendy; Ndombèlé, Aouar; Traoré, Fekir, Memphis; Dembélé