Dimitri Payet will travel for his first Olympique de Marseille away day in two weeks when his side head to the Stade de la Beaujoire to take on FC Nantes on Wednesday evening.
FC Nantes - Olympique de Marseille
- Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Payet has been central to OM's climb to fourth in the Ligue 1 Uber Eats table this season with six goals and five assists from just 11 games played so far.
The OM vice-captain was hit by a fan-thrown projectile at Olympique Lyonnais's Groupama Stadium two weeks ago, and although he then missed the recent trip to Galatasaray in the UEFA Europa League, that was through suspension, and he returned against ESTAC Troyes last Sunday - a game Marseille won 1-0.
Payet pulling the strings
It was a 74th-minute Pol Lirola strike that separated the sides at the Orange Vélodrome, the right-back-turned winger finishing like a striker after latching onto a Payet through-ball and steering the winner beyond Gauthier Gallon, and it is Marseille's ability to change formations on the fly that coach Jorge Sampaoli thinks can give them the edge.
Watch: Highlights of Marseille's 1-0 win over Troyes
"It's true that we can vary the system, and it depends a lot on the opposition," explained the Argentine tactician. "We've been underpinned by a 4-4-2, but we can go 5-4-1 or 4-5-1 depending on what we're up against. We try to have the best 11 players on the field without necessarily thinking about their position."
Payet will almost certainly make up part of that XI, with Sampaoli unlikely to change much from the Troyes win. A back injury means Cengiz Under is the only doubt for the visitors, although Leonardo Balerdi is one booking away from a suspension as OM chase a win that could lift them to second behind Paris Saint-Germain, depending on other results.
Nantes are in 10th, six places and seven points worse off than Marseille. They haven't won in five Ligue 1 Uber Eats games, although they held champions LOSC to a 1-1 draw last Saturday, Ludovic Blas' goal enough to cancel out Burak Yilmaz's opener despite les Canaris closing out the game with 10 men after Fabio was sent off.
Nantes haven't beaten Marseille since February 2020, but had gone five meetings without defeat before that, and Sampaoli's opposite number Antoine Kombouaré thinks that neutralising Payet will be key to getting a result which could pull them up into sixth.
Watch: Highlights of Nantes' 1-1 draw at Lille
"OM have players of experience and quality," the coach explained. "Especially the orchestrator, who for me is one of the best players in France: Dimitri Payet. There's Marseille with him and Marseille without him. But OM have great players, who don't always play well but get results, if they end up second it'll be a huge credit to Sampaoli.
Kombouaré: 'I'd love to have Marseille's problems!'
"If they win their game in hand [the Lyon fixture, which was postponed], they're second. If they're a struggling team, I'd love to have the same problems as Marseille!"
Sébastien Corchia, Roli Pereira de Sa and Renaud Emond are missing with groin, shoulder and thigh injuries respectively, while Blas, Fabio and Jean-Charles Castelletto might be playing with a handbrake on, each of them - like Balerdi - one card away from a suspension.
Marseille: Lopez; Rongier, Saliba, Gonzalez, Peres; Gueye; Lirola, Guendouzi, Payet, De La Fuente; Milik
Nantes: Lafont; Appiah, Girotto, Pallois, Merlin; Moutoussamy, Cyprien, Chirivella; Blas, Kolo Muani, Simon