A raft of defensive injuries to the likes of Steve Mandanda, Adil Rami and Rolando has forced OM coach Rudi Garcia to re-jig his back-line for the trip to face RB Leipzig in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie.
Thursday, April 5, 2018
UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, first leg
RB Leipzig - Olympique de Marseille
Marseille may have come out on top on the scoreboard against Dijon in their Ligue 1 Conforama Week 31 clash on Saturday night, but Garcia's rearguard was dealt a rough blow that evening, with both captain/'keeper Steve Mandanda and stopper Adil Rami forced off injured during the match.
With Rami's customary central defensive counterpart Rolando being ruled out for the trip to Germany on Wednesday with an Achilles tendon complaint, Garcia now has to come up with a new central defensive pairing - likely with star midfielder Luiz Gustavo dropping back into defence.
"He can play anywhere," said Garcia, who is tipped to prefer the Brazilian to the likes of little-used defenders Aymen Abdennour and Grégory Sertic, pairing him with young up-and-comer Boubacar Kamara while Hiroki Sakai and Jordan Amavi fill the wide defensive positions. "Yes, he's invaluable in midfield, and he could well play there, but one possibility is that he drops back into the centre of defence. The important thing is to have him on the pitch."
Faced with the Bundesliga's fourth-placed side - replete with German national team striker Timo Werner and former Paris Saint-Germain striker Jean-Kévin Augustin - injury-hit Marseille face a stiff test in Germany's east but Garcia faith in his squad.
Garcia: 'No particular worries'
"We have a squad that's built for situations like this one, to deal with injuries, suspensions, dips in form. Some players will have to step in to cover absences, but I have no particular worries," explained Garcia, whose side are in the UEFA Europa League quarters for the first time since 2008-09. "The lads will have a chance to express themselves and show their quality, their ambition. It's a UEFA Europa League quarter-final, which is something extremely important to experience as a player."
Garcia is also still without top scorer Florian Thauvin, out with a hamstring injury sustained while on national-team duty, and his place on the right-hand side of attacking midfield should be filled by Bouna Sarr, pushed up from right-back, with France playmaker Payet pulling the strings in the middle. Lucas Ocampos should take the left flank and Valère Germain the lone striker's role with Morgan Sanson to drop into defensive midfield alongside André-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi; Laimer, Upamecano, I. Konaté, Klostermann; Sabitzer (c), N. Keita, Kampl, Forsberg; Ti. Werner, Augustin
Olympique de Marseille: Y. Pelé; Sakai, Bo. Kamara, Luiz Gustavo, Amavi; Anguissa, M. Sanson; B. Sarr, Payet (c), Ocampos; Germain