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Marseille measure up to Brest side on historic run

Publish on 03/12/2021 at 13:10 - A. SCOTT

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Olympique de Marseille are hoping to tighten their grip on second place in the Ligue 1 Uber Eats table this weekend, but opponents Stade Brestois 29 travel to the Orange Vélodrome on the longest winning run in their top-flight history.

Olympique de Marseille - Stade Brestois 29 Saturday at 17:00 CET (1600 GMT)

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Marseille have found winning form again to climb back up the table into second place coming into the weekend. Jorge Sampaoli’s side had won just twice in 12 matches in all competitions before hosting ESTAC Troyes a week ago. They ground out a 1-0 victory in that game, played behind closed doors, thanks to Pol Lirola’s second-half strike. Then, on Wednesday, they followed that up with another 1-0 success, this time away at FC Nantes.

OM’s winning goal at the Stade de la Beaujoire was scored by the much-maligned Gerson, the Brazilian international putting a slow start to life in France behind him to produce a brilliant finish on the turn inside the area. Marseille fans will hope the €22 million summer signing from Flamengo can now really kick on and show just why so much money was invested in him.

As for their form, it can now be looked at in a very different light. As well as back-to-back wins, Marseille are unbeaten in seven league games. Exhilarating to watch going forward in the early weeks of the season, there is now much more of a focus on defensive solidity. They have conceded just one goal in their last six league outings.

Watch: Highlights of OM's narrow win at Nantes

“It fills me with joy to see Marseille playing like that again,” said Sampaoli after the Nantes victory. “We need to keep growing, keep learning and progressing in what is a very difficult league.”

Of Gerson’s starring role, the Argentinian added: “He got into the opposition penalty box a lot. He also did a lot of winning balls back for us and was very active. When he plays like that he offers us a lot. That is why we took a gamble on him.”

Dimitri Payet set up Gerson’s goal in Nantes while playing in a false-nine role, but Arkadiusz Milik could be recalled to the home line-up here, as could Lirola. Sampaoli will likely send out his strongest possible team given how well Brest are playing just now as OM look to keep up their good record at the Vélodrome, where they have lost just once in 16 games in all competitions since the new coach was appointed in March.

Famous five in a row

Confidence is sky-high in the Brest camp, with the Brittany side travelling south looking to extend their run of seven games unbeaten and, more pertinently, five straight victories. They are Ligue 1’s form team and their winning streak is unmatched in their top-flight history.

“It is the first time I have done that as a coach, and I am pleased to have done it with Brest,” said Michel Der Zakarian, who grew up in Marseille and became Brest coach in the close season after leaving Montpellier Hérault SC.

Highlights: Brest beat Les Verts

Brest had not won any of their first 11 games this season under Der Zakarian before embarking on their current run. It is a remarkable turnaround for the Bretons, who defeated AS Monaco (2-0), FC Lorient (2-1), RC Lens (4-0) and Girondins de Bordeaux (2-1) before edging a 1-0 victory against struggling AS Saint-Etienne in midweek thanks to a Romain Faivre penalty.

“We need to have the ambition to keep this run going, to add as many points as we can before the winter break so we can be in a good position for the second half of the season. Our main objective remains survival,” said Der Zakarian on Friday, with Brest sitting level on points with reigning champions LOSC Lille in mid-table.

Probable teams

Marseille: To follow

Brest: To follow