Following defeat at home to Nantes, André-Villas Boas has challenged his OM players to get back on a winning run - starting at Nîmes on Friday evening.
The Portuguese coach saw OM's 14 match unbeaten run come to an end when they fell 3-1 at Orange Vélodrome to Nantes, making the sort of errors they'd managed to avoid during their long unbeaten stretch. Despite the setback OM are still solidly in second in the table with 12 matches to play, eight points clear of third-placed Rennes.
Villas-Boas said: "There was a bit of frustration after Nantes and I can't say it's completely gone. We expected a calmer match and a win given our confidence and the points gap between the clubs. The most important thing for us is to get back on a winning run, to have good results."
Asked if OM are now sitting deeper, the former Chelsea and Tottenham boss gave a detailed answer: "First of all: we've played several away games. Secondly: we've played eight games in four weeks and naturally enough the players are compensating when it comes to their efforts. Thirdly: we have a small squad. Fourthly: the matches were difficult. Fifthly: opponents are starting to understand the way we play. I don't think it's a physical problem. What we've lacked most frequently since the start of the season is technical finesse when it comes to creating and finishing chances. That's our weakness, if you want to put it like that, as we could produce a bit more."
Thauvin nearing a return, AVB backs Payet
Florian Thauvin has resumed squad training and his return to first-team action is imminent, even if Nîmes is still too soon for the World Cup winner. Last season's top scorer's comeback will ease the burden on Dimitri Payet, who was off colour against Nantes as he returned from injury.
Villas-Boas expects a tough assignment on Friday against a Nîmes side that had won four games in a row before falling 2-1 to Rennes in Round 26. He said: "There'll be a great English-style atmosphere. Until Anthony Briançon was sent off at Rennes, Nîmes showed their desire to play. They got their confidence back with their winning run before losing at Rennes. It will be a difficult match. Upfront, Ferhat is fast and plays well. I think they're well coached and well organised."
Nîmes chase repeat win
Nîmes were 3-1 home winners against OM early last season and coach Bernard Blaquart would love a repeat result, even if his side will have to cope without the suspended Briançon and Florian Miguel. Blaquart said: "It's a match unlike any other. The majority of Nîmes fans have Marseille as their second team. Last year we deserved to beat them. Winning this season would be a major achievement. I would have preferred Marseille to have beaten Nantes as such clubs rarely lose back-to-back games."
Nîmes: (to follow)
Marseille: (to follow)