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Stick or twist for Marseille against Guingamp?

Publish on 09/05/2018 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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Rudi Garcia faces a selection dilemma as Marseille head to Guingamp on Friday with domestic Champions League qualification still a possibility and a Europa League final against Atletico Madrid up ahead.

 EA Guingamp - Olympique de Marseille 

Olympique de Marseille make the 700-mile journey to Brittany in fourth, with just two fewer points than Olympique Lyonnais in second, and one less than deposed champions AS Monaco, who complete the podium as things stand.

Fourth place in Ligue 1 Conforama means UEFA Europa League football in 2018/19; Winning the Europa League - the final of which will be held, somewhat poetically, at Lyon's Groupama Stadium - ensures a place in next season's UEFA Champions League.

Which way to go?

So, does Garcia play a full-strength team at Guingamp, hope OL and Monaco slip up, and risk tired legs against Atletico? Or does the coach - a double winner with LOSC in 2011 - throw everything at the European final on Wednesday, increasing the risk of dropped points at the Stade de Roudourou?

These are the questions Garcia will have been asking himself in recent days, and he has given some clues as to what the answers will be, with club captain Dimitri Payet and attacking midfielder-turned-right-back Bouna Sarr likely to feature in both games, at least.

"Payet is the Dimitri we recruited and he makes the difference," enthused the coach following last Sunday's 2-1 win over OGC Nice, in which Payet grabbed a goal and an assist. "He's always willing to take on his responsibilities and he lifts the team. He has the will to win and the talent."

Defensive shuffle

Sarr, meanwhile, was handed a new contract until 2022 last week, and seems certain to start at right-back in both games with Japan defender Hiroki Sakai ruled out with a knee injury. With Adil Rami suspended, Rolando - whose 115th-minute goal against Red Bull Salzburg helped OM progress to the Europa League final last Thursday - is likely to be partnered by Luiz Gustavo in defence.

With safety assured but European qualification beyond them, 11th-place Guingamp are simply playing for pride on Friday, but Garcia's opposite number Antoine Kombouaré would love to see an upturn in his side's performances following their 3-1 loss to Dijon FCO on Sunday.

'Not a question of motivation'

"Dijon were much better than us," he lamented at his post-match press conference. "We struggled a lot physically and in terms of commitment. We dropped off mentally, and I'd like to congratulate Dijon, who played really well. Defensively, they broke through us quite a few times. It was a non-performance. It's not a question of motivation."

Yannis Salibur is ill so Marcus Thuram and Nicolas Benezet are likely to fill the wide attacking berths for the hosts. Young South African Lebogang Phiri could start ahead of Étienne Didot in midfield.

Abdoul Camara, like Sarr, signed a new contract recently - his deal running until 2020 - but after knee ligament surgery he won't see action until next season, long after Marseille know their European fate.

 

Probable teams

Guingamp: Johnsson; Martins-Pereira, Eboa Eboa, Sorbon, Ikoko; Phiri, Blas; Benezet, Grenier, Coco; Briand

Marseille: Mandanda; Sarr, Rolando, Gustavo, Amavi; Lopez, Zambo Anguissa; Ocampos, Payet, N'Jie; Germain