Andre Villas-Boas, Monaco
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Marseille and Monaco set for European six-pointer

Publish on 10/12/2020 at 00:20

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Olympique de Marseille welcome AS Monaco to the Orange Vélodrome with both sides knowing that a win could leave them as Paris Saint-Germain's closest pursuers at the conclusion of Round 14.

Olympique de Marseille - AS Monaco

 

Kick-off: Saturday at 16:00 GMT

 

Marseille may have bowed out of Europe for the season following Wednesday's 3-0 loss to Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League, but their domestic form has stood in stark contrast to their European travails and they begin the weekend in fourth, one point and place better off than their visitors.

 

André Villas-Boas's side have won each of their last five games in Ligue 1 Uber Eats and are undefeated in nine.

 

An unusual view

 

Dario Benedetto - who scored his second goal of the season in last Friday's 2-0 win at Nîmes Olympique - and centre-back Duje Caleta Car are among those rested in Manchester likely to be rotated back into the starting XI, although Villas Boas will have to watch from the stands after being sent off for vehemently protesting an early Jordan Amavi yellow card last week.

 

Watch:Highlights of Marseille's 2-0 win over Nîmes

 

 

"My sending off was logical," conceded the Portuguese tactician after the match at the Stade des Costières. "I was a little nervous and I misspoke, the red card was deserved."

 

There were other positives to draw, quite aside from the three-point haul. Benedetto has struggled to recreate his 11-goal maiden season at Marseille - which included a brace in a 4-3 thriller at Monaco - but Villas Boas thinks his Argentine striker might be beginning to click into gear.

 

Pressure makes diamonds

 

"We've regained confidence and control in possession playing with our diamond system," he said. "The group's beginning to show strength of character. Benedetto's opener gave us confidence and I hope it'll take pressure off him. He might be back to his best now."

 

The aforementioned midfield has allowed Morgan Sanson to play closer to Benedetto, but it also means Nemanja Radonjic's thigh injury is almost welcome for a coach who is already trying to cram Dimitri Payet, Florian Thauvin and Michaël Cuisance into the final third in support of the Argentine.

 

Monaco have been on a tear of their own in Ligue 1 Uber Eats. Niko Kovac's side had won four games on the bounce - including beating champions PSG 3-2 - before last Sunday's narrow 2-1 loss at LOSC.

 

Volland firing

 

Wissam Ben Yedder is slowly getting back to full fitness after a coronavirus-enforced absence but Kevin Volland has stepped up to the plate in the absence of last season's top scorer and is now up to five goals and three assists following his summer switch from Bayer Leverkusen. Cesc Fabregas, at 33, has also been impacting games from the bench.

 

Watch:Highlights of Monaco's narrow 2-1 loss in Lille

 

 

"When you lose it's easy to say after the fact that the reaction was too late," Kovac said following the Lille reverse. "But the match was balanced. We simply made two mistakes we can't afford to make against a good team. Both sides showed a lot of respect for the other. Lille played in the Champions League last season… and I think they feared us too given our good results in recent weeks.

 

'Should have drawn'

 

"I think it should've ended in a draw, so I'm definitely disappointed. All the players affected by COVID have had repercussions, that's why we're going little by little with Wissam Ben Yedder, by having him play an hour this week after giving him half an hour the week before."

 

How close Ben Yedder gets to 90 minutes this time remains to be seen, but there will be no role for Benjamin Lecomte (hand), Djibril Sidibé (knock) or Aleksandr Golovin (thigh) against Marseille.

 

Possible line-ups:

 

Marseille: Mandanda; Sakai, Alvaro, Caleta-Car, Nagatomo; Kamara, Rongier, Sanson; Cuisance; Thauvin, Benedetto

Monaco: Mannone; Aguilar, Disasi, Badiashile, Henrique; Martins, Tchouaméni, Fofana, Diop; Volland, Ben Yedder