Dante, Nice, Olympique de Marseille

Marseille - Nice preview Dante 'will be missed' says Galtier

Marseille - Nice preview Dante 'will be missed' says Galtier

Publish on 03/18 at 21:24 - I. HOLYMAN


Christophe Galtier said Nice will miss the experience of Dante as his side face a white-hot atmosphere in Marseille on Sunday in a contest between the teams vying for a place in the top two in the Ligue 1 Uber Eats table (kick-off 8:45pm CET).

Nice let slip their hold on second place following their goalless draw with Montpellier last weekend and Marseille's win in Brest, OM easing ahead of their rivals for France's second automatic UEFA Champions League group stage qualifying place on goals scored.


Nice's attempts to end a sticky run of form that has seen them pick up just two wins from six league outings will be handicapped by Dante serving a one-game suspension following his red card at Montpellier.


WATCH: Nice and Marseille's league meeting in October






"It's Dante, he's our captain, the leader of one of the best defences in the league," said Galtier, who has seen the former UEFA Champions League winner play a central role in Ligue 1 Uber Eats' stingiest rearguard.  


"It'll be a big game, with a big atmosphere. If we had been fortunate enough to have him, he would have contributed his way of handling big games, because he's used to them, he's won big trophies. But in a season, you know there will be absences, and you can't hide behind that."


Dante's absence will be all the more keenly felt given the 90 minutes at the Orange Vélodrome promise to be particularly highly charged following the abandonment of the first fixture between the pair this season — a game that was eventually replayed behind closed doors — before Nice romped to a 4-1 home win over OM in the Coupe de France quarter-finals. Galtier does not believe it will be a decisive 90 minutes, however, with fourth-placed Rennes just a point behind.



"There will still be a lot games, the fixture list is full of games between direct rivals. We'll still have to face Rennes, who have had an extraordinary run," said the Nice coach, whose named the Bretons — his team's next opponents — as the team best-equipped to finish in the top two. 


"People usually say such games against direct rivals are very important, but we've not got five games left in the season. Marseille, they have to be congratulated, they're still in Europe. They have a lot of matches, but having said all that, it would still be better for us to win there."


Flavius Daniliuc is likely to deputise for Dante in central defence alongside Jean-Clair Todibo, though Galtier could opt to drop Pablo Rosario back from midfield to fill in. Justin Kluivert, who has only partially trained with the squad due to a calf problem, will be available if he comes through Saturday's final training session without complaint.


Marseille have 50 points from 28 games for the 28th time in the club's history, and have never finished lower than fourth when that has been the case. However, not grabbing at least a podium place would be considered a failure this season.


WATCH: Marseille romp to win in Brest last weekend





Jorge Sampaoli's side have struggled in front of their own fans, though, with the majority of their points coming 'on the road'. They have lost their last two home league matches without scoring, and also have 90 testing minutes in their legs from Thursday's UEFA Europa Conference League contest in Basel. 


Sampaoli believes the fact his team emerged victorious from the tie thanks to a 2-1 win that clinched a 4-2 aggregate triumph will prove a positive factor on their return to domestic action.


"Nice have been able to prepare all week and we played in midweek, and we've only got one or two days to prepare for Sunday's game, but this win, the emotion that it gives, with the Vélodrome that is going to be full, it's important. I'm very confident, my team will play a great game against Nice on Sunday."


Sampaoli rotated much of his squad for Thursday's game, and Boubacar Kamara and Arkadiusz Milik are likely to be returned to the starting XI after substitute roles in Basel. Pau Lopez will replace Steve Mandanda in goal while Dimitri Payet — suspended in midweek — will reclaim the captain's armband.


Probable teams

OM: Lopez; Lirola, Caleta-Car, Saliba, Kolasinac; Guendouzi, Kamara, Gueye; Payet (c), Gerson; Milik


Nice: Benitez; Lotomba, Todibo, Daniliuc, Bard; Thuram, Rosario, Lemina, Stengs; Delort, Gouiri


>> PREVIEW: Nantes vs. Lille