Jorge Sampaoli, Florian Thauvin, Marseille
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Marseille breaking out the Champagne in Reims?

Publish on 22/04/2021 at 09:34 - S. WILLIS

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Jorge Sampaoli is hopeful star player Florian Thauvin will sign a new contract with Olympique de Marseille, whilst knowing that victory over Stade de Reims in French Champagne country on Friday could lift them into the European places.

Stade de Reims - Olympique de Marseille

 

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Marseille make the 500-mile journey north to the Stade Auguste-Delaune with just a point to make up on RC Lens, who occupy the fifth and final European place - which this year brings with it qualification for the play-off round of next season's inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League.

 

On a roll with Lirola

 

OM have been impressive since Sampaoli succeeded André Villas-Boas as coach in February, winning four of their six games under the Argentine tactician, but they were made to dig deep by struggling FC Lorient last Sunday, with Pol Lirola only sealing a 3-2 win in the 91st minute.

 

Thauvin had assisted the first half of Lirola's brace at the Orange Vélodrome, taking his goal-involvement to 18 in all competitions this season. The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner with France is out of contract at the end of the campaign, but Sampaoli is optimistic he will extend his stay.

 

Watch: Highlights of Marseille's 3-2 win over Lorient

 

 

"Flo had a very difficult year last year with injury," he explained. "It stopped him from playing. But from a purely sporting point of view, we hope he'll continue with our project. At the end of the day, it's between the club, the player and his agent."

 

Thauvin was on target in the reverse fixture - a 1-1 draw in December - and Marseille will be somewhat shorthanded as they look to go one better this time around. Valentin Rongier has overcome an Achilles tendon injury, but Duje Caleta-Car is suspended, while fellow defenders Hiroki Sakai and Jordan Amavi are sidelined with back and thigh problems, respectively.

 

Champagne football?

 

Reims begin the day in 11th, 11 points behind their visitors. Their goalless draw against FC Metz last Sunday was their fourth equal share of the spoils in five, and although David Guion's side are undefeated in nine league games since going down 1-0 to Lorient in early February, Europe appears to be out of reach.

 

Watch: Highlights of Reims' 0-0 draw with Metz

 

 

"Faced with two opponents on our level - Nice and Metz - we deserved to take all three points," the coach lamented of Reims's two previous games. "But we've lacked a cutting edge.

 

'Take advantage'

 

"By changing coach, Marseille have also changed their style of play. They now play a more attacking style with just three defenders. They have already improved, but OM undoubtedly leave more space in behind than they used to, and it's up to us to take advantage of it."

 

One player not available to try and do so is Valon Berisha. The Kosovo midfielder is out with a knee injury, but Guion has an otherwise full-strength squad to call upon.

 

Possible teams

 

Marseille: Mandanda; Perrin, Gonzalez, Balerdi; Lirola, Kamara, Gueye, Nagatomo; Thauvin, Milik, Payet

Reims: Rajkovic; Konan, Faes, Abdelhamid, Foket; Cassama; Doumbia, Chavalarin, Cafaro, Mbuku; Dia

 

 

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