OM seek to keep pressure on
By A. Scott
Olympique de Marseille will be looking to keep the pressure firmly on Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the Ligue 1 table when they entertain south-coast rivals OGC Nice at the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday afternoon.
OM come into Week 12 behind PSG only on goal difference, and with a game in hand. However, after a sensational start to the season, their recent form has been patchy. Élie Baup's men have won two and lost four of their last eight matches in all competitions, a run that saw them slip off the pace at the top of the table before last Sunday's 2-0 victory at Ajaccio. They come into this weekend's game looking to put a frustrating midweek result behind them, after having to settle for a 2-2 draw at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Europa League following the concession of a stoppage-time equaliser. That result has left Marseille's chances of advancing to the knockout stages hanging in the balance, and Baup cut a frustrated figure afterwards.
"It's always painful to concede such a late goal," he said. "But we played some good football. We hadn't produced that much quality football in a long time. We are still in with a chance of going through. To concede so late on is hard to take, frustrating, but now we need to be ready to go again when we play Nice on Sunday."
History on Marseille's side
History is very much on Marseille's side in this fixture, with OM having won 17 of their last 18 home meetings with Les Aiglons, including a victory in the semi-finals of last season's Coupe de la Ligue. While Marseille are defending an 11-match unbeaten home run in all competitions stretching back to April, Nice have yet to win on their travels this season, so it would take a brave man to bet on the visitors taking anything from the game
However, Claude Puel's side will make the 200-kilometre journey along the Mediterranean coast with confidence boosted following last Saturday's 2-1 home win against Nancy, their first win in six Ligue 1 games that came hot on the heels of a Coupe de la Ligue win over Lyon.
Civelli: 'We can beat anyone'
"We will see," said Nice defender Renato Civelli - a former OM player - when asked if his team could spring a surprise this weekend. "If we really perform at 100 percent, then I think we can beat anyone. As long as the spirit and commitment are there, we have the quality and resources to cause them trouble. Against Reims (a 3-1 defeat in Week 8) we didn't stand up to them physically. We allowed them to get in about us. Here, we need to be ready for war. I am convinced that if we play to our best level then we can go to the Vélodrome and win."
On the selection front, Marseille are still without the suspended Joey Barton and injured top scorer André-Pierre Gignac, who may not return to action until the New Year. In his absence, Jordan Ayew is pushing hard for a starting slot up front after taking his overall tally for the season to six with a goal against Gladbach. However, Baup has insisted that Loïc Rémy will be given the game-time he needs to rediscover the sharpness in front of goal that has been missing so far this campaign. Meetings with Nice are always special for Rémy, who made his name on the Côte d'Azur before moving to the Vélodrome in the summer of 2010.
After being out since suffering a serious knee injury playing against Nice in a 1-1 draw at the Stade du Ray in March, Souleymane Diawara made his comeback in the midweek European tie, but he may return to the bench here. Nice must do without midfielder Mahamane Traoré, who serves a one-match suspension.
Marseille: Mandanda; Abdallah, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel; Cheyrou, Kaboré; Amalfitano, Valbuena, A.Ayew; Rémy
Nice: Ospina; Genevois, Civelli, Pejcinovic, Kolodziejczak; Digard (c), Abriel; Meriem, Bautheac, Pied; Cvitanich