A weakened and losing momentum OM welcomes PSG for an unbalanced “classic”

From the stands of the Stade-Vélodrome, Jean-Louis Gasset watches, disillusioned, as Jonathan Clauss is injured during France-Chili (3-2), Tuesday March 26

A weakened and losing momentum OM welcomes PSG for an unbalanced “classic”

From the stands of the Stade-Vélodrome, Jean-Louis Gasset watches, disillusioned, as Jonathan Clauss is injured during France-Chili (3-2), Tuesday March 26. Murphy’s Law – “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” – may come to mind. The absence of his right side for several weeks is added to the list of numerous injuries within the Olympique de Marseille (OM) squad.

After the meeting, the Blues coach, Didier Deschamps, and the OM coach exchanged a few words: "I met Jean-Louis who asked me if I could lend him some full-backs", the first to slip into press conference a little later. Behind appearances, Jean-Louis Gasset jokes less. The international break did not spare its squad, and OM approaches the “classic” against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Sunday March 31, deprived of at least six players: Jonathan Clauss, therefore, Bamo Meïté, Jean Onana, Ismaïla Sarr, Valentin Rongier and Michael Murillo.

Four others – Samuel Gigot, Ulisses Garcia, Pape Gueye and Leonardo Balerdi –, returning from injury, are still uncertain to start the match. “If there is the slightest doubt, the player will not play,” Jean-Louis Gasset already warned the media on Friday, anxious not to “deliberately” worsen the condition of one of his own.

When he arrived on the Marseille bench at the end of February, the 70-year-old coach tried psychology to restore confidence in his troops, after a long period of doubts. This time, he will go DIY to try to field a team that is both competitive and physically sharp, capable of standing up to PSG.

“We have been proceeding step by step for eight days,” described the technician, experiencing his first turbulence in Marseille. After straightening out the situation, obtaining five victories in his first five matches, the former coach of Côte d'Ivoire lost his bearings somewhat during the two matches which preceded the international break. Worrying, OM narrowly avoided Villareal's comeback, in the round of 16 second leg of the Europa League (1-3), before losing in the championship to Rennes a few days later (0-2).

Injuries are 'no excuse'

After these two setbacks and with a weakened squad, crossing paths with PSG – whom Marseille have not beaten in Ligue 1 at home since November 2011 – is not the ideal opportunity to get back on track. The capital club could take advantage of the situation to crush its rival. “On Sunday there will be eleven players against eleven others. There is no excuse, even with the injuries during the international break,” insisted Pau Lopez, the Marseille goalkeeper, at a press conference.

A victory in the face of adversity, on the other hand, could determine the end of the season for the Phocaeans. We are far from the rivalry of the classics of the 2000s, or even that of February 2023, when the two teams were separated by only five points in Ligue 1. But this match is important: in the event of success, OM could move ahead of RC Lens in the standings, and thus occupy 6th place, qualifying for the preliminary round of the Europa Conference League. Before, why not, dreaming of going higher, to try to win the Europa League or the Champions League.

The duel against Paris is “a match to give everything,” assured Pau Lopez, affirming that the atmosphere would be there. The Stade-Vélodrome attendance record, which dates from last season's classic, with 65,894 people in the stands, should be broken this evening, the club announced. A support far from negligible, since the Marseille team is the only one not to have yet lost at home this season in the championship.

“Make the perfect match”

But it will take more to defeat a PSG in great form, who have not lost since November 7 – defeat in the Champions League against AC Milan (1-2). “You have to be focused, a lot more aggressive, a lot more skillful with the ball. And above all, be efficient at the slightest opportunity. You practically have to make the perfect match", considers Jean-Louis Gasset, who until now has experienced all his clashes between the best enemies of French football on the other bench, in Paris, as assistant to Luis Fernandez (2001-2003). then Laurent Blanc (2013-2016).

“Perhaps we have to do even better than [against] Villarreal [4-0 victory in the round of 16 first leg of the Europa League] to achieve the feat,” judges the technician, who can hope that PSG already has the lead to their Coupe de France semi-final. This will take place on Wednesday, against Stade Rennes, and Luis Enrique could be tempted to rest certain executives, since his team sits at the top of Ligue 1.

If he continues in line with the weeks which preceded the international break, the Spanish coach could thus do without Kylian Mbappé's kick-off, which would undoubtedly suit Jean-Louis Gasset and the OM. After the match against Chile, the Marseillais went down to the Blues locker room to find “tired people” there. Among them, the French captain and star striker of the capital club must have still had energy, as he spared himself during this friendly match.

Kylian Mbappé will play his last classic before leaving PSG at the end of the season. Injured after thirty minutes of play during the first leg, during Paris' big victory at the Parc des Princes (4-0), and whistled on Tuesday against La Roja, he will certainly be keen to remember one last time the good memories of Marseille public. Under the heavy rain and gusts of wind expected on Sunday evening at the Vélodrome and in Marseille, an injured but not defeated OM will try to spoil their plans by bringing down the Parisian rival for a prestigious victory.