Olympique de Marseille boss Rudi Garcia has conceded star signing Mario Balotelli is not capable of playing a full match. Troubled OM go to Reims on Saturday evening.
Stade de Reims - Olympique de Marseille
Balotelli scored on his Marseille debut but could not prevent his new club falling to a 2-1 home loss to LOSC in Week 22, a match in which leading forward Florian Thauvin was sent off. Balotelli scored 22 minutes and 13 seconds into his first OM appearance, having failed to net in 752 minutes of top division football for Nice this campaign.
Garcia said: "Mario Balotelli is far from having 90 minutes in his legs. He had viral trouble, he was ill, like a lot of other players, and in recent days he has missed several training sessions. For Dimitri (Payet) and Adil (Rami), well they'll need time. Dimitri has just got back running again, Adil not yet. I hope that Hiroki (Sakai) will win the Asian Cup final and then he'll be back with the squad come Saturday and I hope he'll be available for Tuesday's game."
Since Week 15's 0-0 draw at home to Reims, OM have won only one game, beating Caen away by a single goal in Week 21. OM have slipped to eighth place in the table, nine points adrift of third-placed Lyon, who have played a game more.
Garcia: "We're lacking in points"
Garcia conceded: "What is certain is that we're lacking in points and we'll be going to Reims to win. They're a very solid team that has done very well. They have a lot of assets, a good coach, they're on a good run, even if that changes nothing for us. We haven't got as many points as we should have done."
For OM to improve, they'll need to get the best out of Balotelli. Garcia said: "What needs to happen is for Mario not to be isolated at centre-forward. That's not the philosophy of my team. He can plat with a number 10 behind him or we can play another forward up with him. He has a real capacity for playing with others, even if what is expected from him above all else is stats.
"He's appreciated in the dressing room and I've had only positive feedback on him. He's made an impact on certain key individuals in the squad. Our priority is to get him back to his best physically as he hasn't had enough training or matches in order to be at 100% for 95 minutes in the near future. He's got talent."
Rahman: "I can't wait to discover the new league"
Reims are unbeaten in six Ligue 1 Conforama matches, winning two and drawing four, their longest run in the league this season. Reims are behind OM on goal difference alone, albeit having played one more match than Saturday's opponents. Stade Auguste Delaune will be packed for the fixture, with the club confirming all tickets have been sold.
The Champagne club have been busy in the transfer market this week and among the new arrivals is Baba Rahman, on loan from Chelsea. The Ghanaian international full-back will wear the number 21 shirt and he said: "I know the French league is fast and physical with quality players. I've played in the Bundesliga and I've watched a lot of Ligue 1 matches and to see the difference between the two leagues I need to be on the pitch. I saw the game against Guingamp and I can't wait to discover the new league."
Reims: (to follow)
Marseille: (to follow)