Heading into their important clash with OGC Nice, Olympique de Marseille were riding the crest of a wave following their exhilarating Europa League semi-final win over Red Bull Salzburg the previous Thursday.
And Rudi Garcia’s men appropriately celebrated qualifying for the final with a come from behind 2-1 win over the Eaglets at the weekend. Playing in what was a fluid 4-2-3-1 with plenty of rotations between their attackers, Lucien Favre’s men struggled to contain Marseille’s multifaceted front four of Dimitri Payet, Valere Germain, Lucas Ocampos and Florian Thauvin.
By persistently interchanging positions and roles, this ensured the Nice backline had difficulty settling into a rhythm to mark their adversaries, for OM persistently altered the defenders’ reference points. Indeed, through cohesively timing their movements, Marseille successfully manipulated their opposition, usually having one or two players on the shoulder of the last defender, plus another two positioned in threatening central attacking zones. This enabled them to stretch Nice’s structure vertically through runs in behind, while also giving the ball possessor strong central passing options.
Crucially, the centrally situated men in the 10 or half spaces also served them well if an opposing defender won an aerial duel, as they were subsequently in a great position to recover the second ball and attack the disorganised Nice backline.
With the full-backs providing width, in combination with the central midfielders shifting to the ball near side, this notably generated overloads for the home side to enhance their chances of progressing down whichever flank they were targeting.
Moreover, their determined defensive pressing, counterpressing and breathtaking counter attacking, were all additional highlights of their vital win, which sess them remain just one point behind AS Monaco, who currently occupy the final Champions League qualification slot in third place.
If things go to plan and they manage to overcome a superbly well drilled Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final, however, they won’t need to worry about their league finish, for they’ll earn a UCL spot through winning the coveted competition.
Entering the business end of the campaign, Marseille’s sights will be firmly set on doing as well as possible on both fronts, but winning the Europa League will unquestionably be their ultimate goal.
After all, winning the showpiece would be the perfect way to celebrate their fantastic season under Garcia.
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