Olympique de Marseille will be looking to Florian Thauvin to star again when they host Strasbourg on Tuesday evening at Orange Vélodrome.
Olympique de Marseille - RC Strasbourg Alsace
Thauvin had a dramatic game in the 3-0 success at Rennes last Saturday to kick off 2018 in Ligue 1 Conforama. The former Newcastle attacker scored one, set another up, had a penalty saved and hit the crossbar with an audacious attempt from the halfway line late on.
The French international's assist for Valère Germain's opener in Brittany drew him level at the top of the Ligue 1 Conforama assists chart with Neymar, the most expensive player in history. Thauvin, who'll turn 25 later this month, has flourished since returning to the south of France after his move to England didn't work out.
Garcia: "He's become a more complete player"
So important is Thauvin to OM that club coach Rudi Garcia was moved to tell Téléfoot on Sunday: "In 2017 he was the most influential French player for his team. It was a fantastic year for Flo and 2018 has got off on the right foot for him. I'm very demanding of him but I allow him a certain attacking freedom. He's become a more complete player and his positioning is better. He makes better choices, even if he still has room for improvement in that department. He tries a lot of things, and you don't want to take that away from him. He's a very important player for us and he can count on me to keep pushing him."
OM have taken 34 points from their last 15 league outings, losing only once in that run, and Week 20 was good for both Thauvin and his club. Draws for Monaco and Olympique Lyonnais reduced the gap between them and OM to a single point.
Thauvin: "We mustn't get carried away"
Speaking after the Rennes victory, Thauvin said: "I hope we can keep this rhythm going and even do better through to the end of the season. We mustn't get carried away though. We've got a good team with good players. The team spirit is good but we're calm. We'll give it our all through to the end of the season."
Having already scored nine goals to go with his nine assists, Thauvin is on fire. Maintain this standard over several seasons and he may yet fulfill his ambition of becoming to OM what Francesco Totti was to Roma.
Strasbourg's year began badly as they suffered only their second league loss in eight matches, falling 2-0 at home to Guingamp. In Week 9 Strasbourg and OM played out a superbly entertaining 3-3 all draw as Kostas Mitroglou netted an 88th-minute winner in order to secure a point for the visitors.
Laurey: OM "should finish second"
Strasbourg coach Thierry Laurey said: "OM have now reached cruising speed and they have unity in their team. They have the experience there that should allow them to finish second in the table. If we're focused and we don't look at the stands too much then I see no reason why the game should become a catastrophe for us. Losing to Guingamp was a good lesson for us. People have to realize that we might have the odd off-day. We're lucky that we're straight back into action."
Marseile: Mandanda; Sarr, Rami, Abdennour, Bedimo; Zambo Anguissa, Luiz Gustavo (c); Thauvin, Sanson, Ocampos; Germain
Strasbourg: Oukidja; Foulquier, Koné (c), Martinez, Lala; Gonçalves, Aholou, Martin; Da Costa, Blayac, Terrier