OM seeking rare home comfort
By A. Scott
Fresh from winning through to the Coupe de France final in midweek, Olympique de Marseille are targeting a first home victory in Ligue 1 since September as they entertain struggling FC Nantes at the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday.
Olympique de Marseille - FC Nantes (kick-off 14:00CET)
It has been a turbulent week for OM with Spanish coach Michel suspended following a desperately disappointing performance in last weekend's 2-1 defeat away to AS Monaco.
Assistant coach Franck Passi was promoted to the role of interim boss until the end of the season, the second time he has fulfilled such a role already this season. Assisted by club legend Basile Boli in his new position of sporting coordinator, Passi roused the troops as they ground out a 1-0 win away to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard of Ligue 2 at the Stade Bonal in the cup semi-final to set up a final showdown next month with great rivals Paris Saint-Germain.
Now the hope is that they can build on that victory - given to them by a solitary Florian Thauvin goal - and finally get back to winning ways in the league. They have failed to win any of their last 10 league matches and are on a disastrous run of 14 home league matches without tasting victory, the longest such streak in their history.
"Our mission wasn't just to qualify for the Stade de France. We still have work to do in the league. If, in the same week, we managed to get through to the Stade de France and get a win in the league then it would liberate everybody," said Passi as OM look to finally secure top-flight survival with just six points separating them from the relegation zone coming into the weekend.
Cabella: 'Need to build confidence'
The atmosphere at the Vélodrome has been execrable in recent matches there but Rémy Cabella hopes the win at Sochaux will improve the mood of the fans, who have also seen owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus put the club up for sale in recent days.
"It had been a long time since we had been able to celebrate with the supporters. Now we need to go on a run to build our confidence because we have a difficult end to the season," said the on-loan Newcastle United player.
"After every match our heads were down but this time there were smiles on faces in the dressing room. Franck Passi asked us to show pride and talked about doing it for the fans and being on a commando mission."
If the message seems to be getting across for Passi already, Nantes coach Michel Der Zakarian has been having difficulty motivating his team of late. Les Canaris have lost their last four outings, including a 2-0 defeat at home to Montpellier Hérault SC last weekend in front of their own fans.
A team that had emerged as contenders for European qualification after a run of 13 Ligue 1 games without defeat up to the end of February have now won just once in nine in all competitions and find themselves at risk of slipping into the bottom half.
"When you start to have doubts and your feet tremble, when the group as a whole is not in good shape...There are a lot of things missing at the moment and we need to rediscover the values that helped us before," said Der Zakarian, who is being tipped to leave the club at the end of the season and is hoping to secure a first top-half finish in Ligue 1 for Nantes since 2004.
"We must not capitulate. We need to be stronger mentally. Our fans have been extraordinary over the last four years so it is understandable that they are angry."
Nantes have won just one of their last 11 away league games, with that success coming at bottom side ESTAC Troyes. They will welcome back striker Yacine Bammou and on-loan PSG full-back Youssouf Sabaly this weekend, while Nicolas Nkoulou is available again for OM after sitting out the Sochaux cup tie due to a one-match suspension. Lassana Diarra has missed the last three games with a left knee injury.