Troubled Marseille in need of lift on Bastia trip
By A. Scott
Constant speculation surrounding the future of coach Míchel has overshadowed the build-up to Olympique de Marseille's difficult trip to Corsica to face SC Bastia at the Stade Armand-Cesari on Sunday afternoon.
SC Bastia - Olympique de Marseille
The Spaniard's future at OM has been the subject of much discussion over the international break with Marseille's struggles being epitomised by their capitulation in losing 5-2 at home to Stade Rennais FC in their last outing two weeks ago.
That result meant the southern giants ended March languishing in 12th place in the table, six points clear of the relegation zone having failed to win any of their last seven Ligue 1 games. For now Míchel remains at the helm, but he surely needs a positive result in Corsica as Marseille look to haul themselves into the top half of the table and away from trouble in the next few weeks before they go to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard for a Coupe de France semi-final that could yet define their season.
As well as the speculation about the coach, OM have dominated the headlines in relation to president Vincent Labrune's apparent attempts to find a new buyer for the club. However, for now the only focus is on Bastia and Spanish full-back Javier Manquillo has insisted that the players are still right behind Míchel.
While on duty with his national under-21 side, the on-loan Atlético Madrid man told Spanish sports daily Marca that he was flourishing in France thanks to the coach and expressed confidence that results would soon improve.
'With the coach to the death'
"At the moment things are going quite well for me personally. Since Míchel came in things have gone well for me and I have to thank him for giving me so much confidence," Manquillo said.
"I am very happy. What I needed was playing time and I am getting it there, because of the confidence Míchel is giving me. And that is why it is also a shame that things are not going well for the team in general, although everyone in the dressing room is with the coach to the death and we will get out of this."
Marseille are on a club record run of 13 home league games without a win since defeating this weekend's opponents 4-1 at the Vélodrome way back in September. In contrast, their away form remains impressive, with OM unbeaten in their last 11 league matches on their travels. Indeed, they have lost just one of their last 18 games on the road in all competitions.
However, there are few harder places to go than Furiani, with only champions Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais having collected more points at home than Bastia coming into the weekend. François Ciccolini's side were beaten by LOSC in their last home outing, but that is their only loss in their last seven matches anywhere after they came from behind to draw 1-1 at Girondins de Bordeaux two weeks ago.
Ciccolini's squad is boosted this weekend by the returns of both Mehdi Mostefa and Yannick Cahuzac after suspension. Sadio Diallo is out for the rest of the season after undergoing a hernia operation and Florian Raspentino will miss the meeting with his old club due to a thigh injury. In addition, leading scorer Floyd Ayité and defender Florian Marange have been struggling with knocks.
There are no such issues for Marseille, although Míchel must judge the condition of his many players who have been away on duty with their countries over the last fortnight before deciding on his line-up.
Bastia: Leca; Djiku, Peybernes, Modesto, Marange; Cahuzac (c), Mostefa, Palmieri; Ayité, Danic, Brandão
Marseille: Mandanda (c); Dja Djédjé, Rolando, Nkoulou, Manquillo; Thauvin, Diarra, Isla, Cabella, Nkoudou; Batshuayi