Marseille approaching business end of season full of confidence


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.

Marseille 1

Click to enlarge

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.

Marseille 2

Click to enlarge

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.

How well do you know French football? Want to challenge the best Ligue 1 Fantasy Managers? Play now!

Neymar’s injury presents opportunity for others to shine


Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-0 victory over Marseille in Le Classique was soured by a metatarsal injury that has put an abrupt halt to Neymar’s season.

Whilst the club’s fans may mourn the loss of such a phenomenal talent, his injury presents an opportunity for others to stake a claim at the club. We explore how opportunity could be born from this episode of adversity.

The injury to the Brazilian means that he is likely to experience an extended period on the sidelines as he seeks to rehabilitate, something that will put a significant dampener on what had otherwise promised to be an exceptional point scoring tally for the Parisians come the end of the season. Continue reading

Our picks ahead of the weekend’s Ligue 1 action


The usual suspects star heavily in our picks of the week for the 26th round of Ligue 1 action – check out our top tips as you prepare your side for the next game day!

Steve Mandanda, Marseille

It’s testament to his mental strength that he’s returned from a mixed season at Crystal Palace and slotted straight back into the Marseille side.

With 45 points thanks in large to his 11 clean sheets, Mandanda will undoubtedly believe that his return to his homeland was an inspired decision.

Lucas Lima, Nantes

The pacey left back has been a revelation under the guidance of Claudio Ranieri and a key figure in the side’s excellent run.

His three assists and one goal have helped him onto an impressive 37 points this season and his attacking output could be critical if his side are to beat Nice. Continue reading

Ligue 1 focus: Lyon slump to third defeat on bounce


Having beaten the powerhouse of Paris Saint-Germain in the third round of matches in the post-winter break round of fixtures, many a Lyon supporter would be justified in having lofty expectations for the back end of their campaign.

However, things have not panned out in the way that many of us will have anticipated – with the side’s third consecutive Ligue 1 defeat seeing them fall from second place in the table to four points behind third placed Marseille.

Having unexpectedly faltered against Bordeaux and an AS Monaco side that had been reduced to ten men in respective 3-1 and 3-2 defeats, the seven time league champions will have been keen to have shown their mettle as they sort to bounce back with a home victory over a Rennes side that had encountered form issues of their own. Continue reading

Our Ligue 1 picks ahead of the weekend’s action


Check out our picks for the weekend’s Ligue 1 fixtures, as the battles for the Europa League spots and to avoid relegation begin to heat up!

Benjamin Lecomte

The 26-year-old shot stopper has played a prominent role in Montpellier’s season, with his side very much in the conversation for a European spot this season.

Montpellier face an away trip to bottom placed Metz and he will be hoping to add to his record of 10 clean sheets.

Adil Rami
The 32-year-old is enjoying a stellar maiden season at Marseilles, securing 12 clean sheets in 23 starts so far during the campaign.

His side travel to a mid-table Saint-Etienne side with a modest goal scoring record and the French international will be quietly confident of a clean sheet as his side hope to consolidate second place in the table. Continue reading

Ligue 1 player of the week: Florian Thauvin


Florian Thauvin is our Ligue 1 player of the week, with the Marseilles man securing a phenomenal hat-trick and assist in his side’s 6-3 victory over Metz.

An unorthodox route to the top of the game for a player of such obvious talent, Thauvin  began his career at lowly Grenoble and Bastia, before arriving at the French giants Marseilles in 2013.

Indeed, such was his form for Marseilles during his first term at the club that he was rewarded with the opportunity to prove his mettle in the rigours of the Premier League at Newcastle United. Continue reading

Jouez le meilleur jeu de Ligue 1 Fantasy Football!

Etes-vous pret a selectionnez les meilleurs joueurs de la Ligue 1 pour votre equipe, comme, par exemple, Alexandre Lacazette, Angel Di Maria et Vincent Enyeama? Continue reading

Belgian prospect Michy Batshuayi staying in France after committing future to L’OM


Olympique de Marseilles striker Michy Batshuayi has extended his contract at the Stade Vélodrome until 2020, all but ruling out the prospect of him making a move to the Premier League during the January transfer window. The Belgian international, 22, has been linked with a host of clubs in the last two years following a real rich vein of form in the French Ligue 1 and Belgian Jupiler Pro League, but reportedly wants to ensure of his place in the Belgium national team squad for Euro 2016 by playing regularly for Marseilles this season.

Boasting pace and power while having real composure in front of goal, Michy Batshuayi is fast making a name for himself. He was signed from Belgian club Standard Liege in 2014, after having scored 18 league goals in 29 games. He took his time to settle in his first season in France, but has been in fantastic form this campaign, scoring 11 goals in 19 outings. Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Crystal Palace were three sides reportedly keen in his signature, but they are now likely to pursue other targets due to his contract extension.

Michy Batshuayi’s decision to stay at the Stade Velodrome is brilliant news for Marseilles and the supporters, but the talented striker is sure to garner a large asking price in the coming years if he can continue his development with L’OM. He’s still only 22 and has time on his side before considering a move to a European giant, but a good European Championships with Belgium could well dee his stock rise considerably. Batshuayi is expected to make the squad alongside Divock Origi, Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku in the attack, and a good summer with the Red Devils could be career-changing.

The young forward certainly has all the hallmarks to be a prolific European striker, already showcasing fantastic strength in possession to brush off defenders, as well as clever off-the-ball movement to work himself an opening. He can score goals with his head, and makes lung busting runs to the near post to be the welcome recipient of tap-ins from close range. Batshuayi could perhaps benefit further playing for a side that create more chances of their forwards, but he’s embracing the expectation on his shoulders this season, and clearly has his feet on the ground in regard to deciding his short-term future.

Could a good European Championships with Belgium see Michy Batshuayi finally move to the Premier League in the summer?

Could the in-form Lassana Diarra make France’s Euro 2016 squad next summer?

lass diarra

Former Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra made a low-key move to French Ligue 1 side Olympique de Marseilles this summer after a failed spell in Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala and Lokomotiv Moscow, but has been in fantastic form for his new club that has led to a surprise recall for the French national team. Joining L’OM as a #10, many thought the 30-year-old was finished at the top level, but has been confounding his critics in the best possible way.

Making seven Ligue 1 appearances for Marseilles, Diarra has impressively averaged a tackle or interception every 20 minutes, and has showcased brilliant levels of fitness by making 27 successful dribbles. The ex-Chelsea and Arsenal man primarily occupies a deep-lying role in the midfield, but has real composure on the ball to create chances for his teammates, as well as retaining high-levels of possession.

Diarra’s brilliant league form led to a shock recall to the French national team, with the experienced midfielder making his first appearance in five years for Les Blues. Manager Didier Deschamps was full of praise for his showing in an international friendly against Armenia too, saying: “He has intelligence, he has everything and in such an important strategical position.”

“It’s so good to have the choices I have. Lass is a top player, a top-class performer who has experience. As a team, we played at our best. We punished Armenia when fatigue set in and that allowed us to score four goals. We say that it is only against a team like Armenia but we still had to score them. We could have scored more but it is a good result.”

Considering Diarra has played at the highest level for a number of clubs, it should perhaps be no surprise he can still deliver such brilliant performances in the midfield for Marseilles, and has been impressing his club manager Michel early on too. The L’OM boss said: “With the performances he puts in, it seemed like we were playing with 12 players. It’s nothing new, he’s getting better and better. When the younger players see such a professional, it’s unthinkable that they wouldn’t follow his example. I’m not the one who assigned him that role (of club leader). He took it on himself. He’s solving more problems than we ask of him.”

After wasting the last few years in Russia, it’s clear Diarra wants to graft hard for his place for club and country, and his form could well see him in the Euro 2016 squad next summer against all odds.

Marcelo Bielsa finally runs of out patience at Marseilles

Following Olympique de Marseilles’ 1-0 defeat to Caen in their opening French Ligue 1 game, manager Marcelo Bielsa tendered his resignation, with reports suggesting CEO Philippe Perez and lawyer Igor Levin altered his previously-agreed contract extension as ordered by club owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus.

Bielsa has been hamstrung at Marseilles due to the ongoing players sales each summer, but he enjoyed an impressive debut season and was willing to extend his stay in France. However, a perceived “lack of trust” has caused him to promptly depart the Stade Vélodrome this summer to the surprise of many. The coach then released a statement following his exit.

“We reached an agreement to extend the contract for 2016-17, and I have since been thinking everything was cleared up. But last Wednesday, I was called in to meet with the CEO (Perez) and attorney Igor Levin (Louis-Dreyfus’ legal representative) and they informed me that they would like to adjust some points of the agreement we had previously reached,” he said.

“It was after this meeting that I’d reached my decision. I rejected important offers to continue at Marseille because I was very interested in this project, but today I cannot accept this unstable situation brought on by the move to change the terms of the contract. Working together demands a little bit of trust and now we do not have that.”

Bielsa has had a tough overhaul to see to, with Marseilles having lost some key players in the last 12 months. Mathieu Valbuena, Lucas Mendes, Jordan Ayew and Morgan Amalfitano have been offloaded in Biela’s first campaign at the club, while Giannelli Imbula, Dimitri Payet, André Ayew, André-Pierre Gignac and Rod Fanni left the side this summer.

The 60-year-old head coach was appointed at L’OM in the summer of 2014, leading the side to 4th in his debut season. However, the French club will be looking for a new manager after losing Bielsa, and took a parting shot at their ex-coach for the manner of exit.

“The board of Olympique de Marseille did everything, but under no circumstances can OM be held prisoner to the demands of someone who places their personal interests well above those of the institution. Marseille is imbued with unique values and possesses a sufficiently rich history to refuse to subject itself to the law of a single man.”

It’s a sad way for the two parties to end association, and there doesn’t look to be any reprieve for Marcelo Bielsa at Olympique de Marseilles.