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Nantes next for flying Marseille and Payet

Publish on 21/02/2020 at 09h50 - I. HOLYMAN

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Dimitri Payet will return to the Olympique de Marseille line-up on Saturday with the talismanic attacking midfielder seeking to extend OM's unbeaten run against his former club FC Nantes.

Payet missed Sunday's come-from-behind win at LOSC Lille with a muscle strain, but is — according to coach Andre Villas-Boas — "100 per cent available for the match" against Nantes, the team he made 33 Ligue 1 appearances for between 2005 and 2007.

 

That is a major boost to the nine-time French champions, who are now unbeaten in their last 14 league games and have pulled 11 points clear of third-placed Stade Rennais FC to leave themselves firmly on course to finish in the top two and make a long-awaited return to the UEFA Champions League.

 

"I want to take nine points from the next three games," said Villas-Boas, who remains without Nemanja Radonjic and Florian Thauvin, the latter expected to return in March after playing just 10 minutes of league football this season.

 

"We want to keep our advantage over Rennes and Lille. If we win six games, I think we'll have enough to finish third, but if we win nine games we know we'll be second, that's our aim."

 

WATCH: Marseille take a big step forward in beating Lille


 

Nantes have failed to win any of their last five league games, picking up just two points to tumble down the table after making a promising start to the campaign.

 

But they have not lost any of their last four meetings with OM, including the goalless draw the sides played out earlier this season, and Marseille forward Valère Germain is aware he and his teammates cannot take their foot off the gas yet.

 

"We're on a good run, but we can lose 2-3 games and the teams behind us can come back quickly. We're not going to slacken off, we really want to go to the Champions League," said the forward, who was involved in the Reinildo own goal that pulled OM level at Lille before Dario Benedetto got the winner.

 

"The coach reminds us on a daily basis that we haven't yet achieved the objectives set at the start of the season. It's always difficult against Nantes, but that's the case for every game."

 

Olympique de Marseille, André Villas-Boas, Valentin Rongier

 

Nantes have not proven such a handful in recent weeks. Since beating AS Saint-Étienne in Round 20, they have only managed to avoid defeat to Dijon FCO — thanks to a 91st-minute Andrei Girotto equaliser — and another struggling side, FC Metz.

 

Last weekend's goalless draw at home to the visitors from Lorraine left Nantes in 12th place, just eight points off the bottom three. But boss Christian Gourcuff is not entirely unhappy with his team's play, even if the results could be improved significantly.

 

"Since the winter break, not everything is black in terms of how we have played, but we haven't won for a long time, it's getting urgent," he explained.

 

"The aim is to have a reaction at Marseille, but also to take some points to reassure ourselves as quickly as possible. We're not in a crisis, but there is a crisis of results. We have get out of it. We look at the gaps in the table, but weren't not going to scare ourselves."

 

Probable teams


Marseille: to follow

 

Nantes: to follow