Payet to take France frustration out on Lyon?
Olympique de Marseille host Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday with captain Dimitri Payet having missed out on the latest France squad, but enjoying the kind of form to show Didier Deschamps what he might be missing.
Olympique de Marseille - Olympique Lyonnais
Deschamps announced his penultimate France squad before the FIFA World Cup this summer, for friendlies against Colombia and hosts Russia, on Thursday, and while there was space for eight Ligue 1 Conforama stalwarts - including Marseille teammates Florian Thauvin and Steve Mandanda - Payet was overlooked.
The 30-year-old, capped 35 times by his country, has been in fine fettle this season, with his seven goals and 11 assists in all competitions helping OM to third in the table - five points clear of Sunday's visitors Lyon - as well as into the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, sealed on Thursday following a 5-2 aggregate win over Athletic Bilbao.
Still time for Payet
"There's a list that's been released which I don't appear in," explained the attacking midfielder following a 2-1 second leg win in the Basque country in which he opened the scoring with a penalty. "But it's not the last list. There are two months left for me to do what it takes to punch my ticket to Russia."
Watch: Payet's Top 5 goals in Ligue 1 Conforama!
"Payet? It wasn't necessary to talk to him about his absence from Deschamps' squad," affirmed Les Olympiens coach Rudi Garcia. "He's a big boy, and he's shown tonight exactly how ready he'll be if he's recalled. It was important to win [against Bilbao] in order to prepare for the game on Sunday [against OL]."
First-team regulars André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Morgan Sanson and Valère Germain were rested at the San Mames and are expected to return to the starting line-up at the Orange Vélodrome, though Thauvin - replaced by Bouna Sarr after 67 minutes on Thursday - is a doubt with an ankle complaint. Left-back Jordan Amavi has a yellow card suspension that will kick in against Dijon FCO on the first game back after the international break, but he's available on Sunday.
There may not be such good news for Amavi's opposite number Marçal. Lyon missed the chance to join Marseille in the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday, going down 3-2 at home to CSKA Moscow to bow out of the competition on away goals, and Marçal, having been subbed off with 20 minutes to go, failed to shake coach Bruno Génésio's hand on the way back to the changing room.
The Brazilian has since sought to pour oil on troubled waters, but the result remains a bitter pill to swallow, with Les Gones having been optimistic of making the final that will be hosted at their own Groupama Stadium in May.
Watch: Lyon won the reverse fixture 2-0 thanks to goals from Nabil Fekir and Mariano Diaz!
"This is certainly the most difficult moment since I became OL coach," stormed Génésio at his post-match press conference. "I'm also responsible. I'm the coach. It was an extremely important competition for us and we had a solid first match [OL won the first leg 1-0 in Moscow]. Some of the players treated it like a friendly game, not a European competition. We'll have to remobilise for Sunday."
History on OL's side
Accordingly, the coach is expected to ring the changes, with Ferland Mendy the favourite to replace Marçal at left-back. Génésio's hand is forced elsewhere, with captain and talisman Nabil Fekir not expected back for another two weeks having picked up a knee injury in February. The creative burden will fall on Houssem Aouar or Memphis Depay, then.
Lyon do at least have history on their side. They haven't lost to Marseille Ligue 1 Conforama since May 2014, when Thauvin - in his previous spell at the club, scored in a 4-2 win for the south coast club.
Marseille: Mandanda; Sakai, Rami, Roland, Amavi; Zambo Anguissa, Gustavo; Payet (c), Sanson, Ocampos; Germain
Lyon: Lopes (c); Rafael, Marcelo, Morel, Mendy; Ferri, Tousart, Aouar; Traoré, Mariano, Memphis