Monaco test Marseille revival
By A. Scott
Olympique de Marseille's recent revival under Rudi Garcia faces a monumental test on Sunday when they welcome AS Monaco to the Orange Vélodrome in the game of Week 20.
Olympique de Marseille - AS Monaco
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Marseille's troubled season finally took off when they closed 2016 with four consecutive league wins to go into the winter break in sixth place in the Ligue 1 table. They then picked up where they left off when they went to Toulouse and won 2-1 after extra time in the round of 64 of the Coupe de France last weekend with Rémy Cabella scoring both of their goals at Le Stadium.
A home clash with Lyon in that competition awaits at the beginning of next month but before that OM are preparing for a huge duo of games, with this encounter being followed by a trip to the Parc OL.
"We did everything to play good football on a difficult pitch and we deservedly qualified with two goals from our bomber for the evening Rémy Cabella, who showed that in the absence of Bafé Gomis we could still bring in intelligent players up front," was how Garcia assessed the cup win.
Watch: OM end 2016 with narrow win at Bastia
There were doubts about Marseille's ability to revive themselves under Garcia when they slumped to a 4-0 defeat in the reverse fixture in Monaco in November, but their only defeat in seven games in all competitions since then came on penalties at FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in the Coupe de la Ligue.
As they continue to be linked with a move to bring Dimitri Payet back to the club from West Ham United, OM will also be able to welcome back Gomis this weekend. Scorer of 10 league goals already this season, the on-loan Swansea City man was suspended against Toulouse. Clinton Njie is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon while Lassana Diarra continues to be linked with a transfer out of the club.
Monaco - beaten just once in their last six league visits to Marseille - are favourites for the title in some quarters after sitting in second place at the season's halfway stage, two points behind leaders and local rivals OGC Nice. Beaten just once in their last 10 league games, Leonardo Jardim's side have started 2017 in tentative fashion. After edging out AC Ajaccio of Ligue 2 2-1 in the Coupe de France last weekend, they needed penalties to win at Sochaux in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue on Tuesday.
"We chose to start with a certain line-up and then put on more technical players after the break and we deserved the win in the end," said Jardim after the principality side came from behind to draw 1-1 in Sochaux before progressing in the shoot-out.
Watch: Monaco get better of Caen
Winning at least one of the cups and securing a first piece of silverware since 2003 is a central objective for Monaco this season but this game will show to what extent they should be taken seriously in the running for the title in the new year.
While Nabil Dirar and Adama Traoré are at the Africa Cup of Nations, Jardim should restore the likes of Djibril Sidibé, Fabinho, Bernardo Silva and Radamel Falcao to the starting line-up after they started the Sochaux trip on the bench.
Marseille: Pelé; Sakai, Fanni, Rolando, Rekik; Lopez, Vainqueur, Anguissa; Thauvin, Gomis, Cabella
Monaco: Subasic; Touré, Glik, Jemerson, Sidibé; Silva, Fabinho, Bakayoko, Lemar; Falcao, Germain
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