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Marseille to reignite European hopes in Strasbourg?

Publish on 01/05/2019 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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Olympique de Marseille hope to get back to winning ways, and fast - starting at RC Strasbourg Alsace on Friday - as they look to keep their dream of playing European football next season alive.

RC Strasbourg Alsace - Olympique de Marseille 

Rudi Garcia's side occupied the fourth - and, what has become the final - European place until as recently as Week 29, when they lost 3-1 at champions Paris Saint-Germain. Since then, Les Phocéens have dropped eight of a possible 15 points, though.

With Stade Rennais FC upsetting PSG in the Coupe de France final last Saturday, fifth will no longer do for teams pushing for Europe next season. AS Saint-Etienne now occupy fourth, and although they are five points away with 12 left to play for, OM are running out of time.

'Our own fault'

"It's very bad for us in terms of points and it's our own fault," lamented Garcia following the 2-1 loss to FC Nantes last Sunday, in which Samuel Moutoussamy and Andrei Girotto scored either side of Mario Balotelli's strike for the hosts. "We only had two shots on goal in the second half. How do you want to win a Ligue 1 match at home like this? Impossible.

"I'd have liked to have seen more fight when we went 2-1 down. That's what bothers me the most and it's what I'll tell the players. We simply have to win on Friday to try and close the gap on those ahead of us."

Balotelli's form is at least cause for optimism. The Italian striker has now scored eight goals since his January arrival from OGC Nice, and is expected to lead the line once again despite making way for Nemanja Radonjic with more than 20 minute to go at the Orange Vélodrome.

Thauvin doubtful

Florian Thauvin, owner of 13 goals and seven assists, remains a doubt, however. The France forward picked up an ankle injury in training - his place in the final third likely to go to club captain Dimitri Payet, as it did against Nantes.

Friday's hosts are playing for little more than pride. Strasbourg are 10th, 14 points away from ASSE, although they will play European football next season anyway, having won the Coupe de la Ligue at the end of March.

Without a win in five, Thierry Laurey's side could nonetheless prove a banana skin for OM. Le Racing's 0-0 draw at Amiens SC last Sunday was the third time in four games they have held on for a share of the spoils, and they also beat Marseille 4-2 on the way to that Cup triumph.

'Hanging in there'

"We're picking up points and hanging in there and we gave the best of ourselves," said Laurey, before turning his attentions to Stéphanie Frappart, who became the first French woman to referee a Ligue 1 Conforama match at the weekend. "I think it's great that [she]'s refereeing at the top level. I hope that people realise matches can be refereed by women."

Strasbourg remain without midfield trio Dimitri Liénard, Sanjin Prcic and Kévin Zohi due to illness, a twisted ankle and a groin strain respectively, but Laurey is expected to name an otherwise full-strength side.

 

Possible teams

Strasbourg: Sels; Koné, Mitrovic, Martinez; Lala, Sissoko, Martin, Carole; Thomasson; Da Costa, Ajorque

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