Ligue 1 Match of the Week Preview: Olympic Marseille v AC Monaco
Sunday September 1st 20:00
AS Monaco have started the season well, but Claudio Ranieri’s new-look side face their biggest test yet when they travel along the Mediterranean coast to face Marseille, who came into Week 4 top of the table. The club from the principality have set a top-three finish and Champions League qualification as their aim for their first season back among the elite after two years in Ligue 2, and it is a case of so far so good for Monaco. Ranieri’s team beat Bordeaux 2-0 away on the opening day and then thumped Montpellier 4-1 in their first home game of the season, with Emmanuel Rivière scoring a hat-trick. They found life a little tougher last weekend in a goalless home draw against Toulouse behind closed doors at the Stade Louis II, but they remain unbeaten and sit two points adrift of OM ahead of Sunday night’s show down.
“Our first-half performance was very good,”
Ranieri said of his team’s showing against Toulouse.
“We were dangerous with Rivière,(Yannick Ferreira) Carrasco looking good. The movement of the whole team was good and the only thing missing was a goal.”In the second half we were nervy and rushed things, but it is impossible to win every game and one point was good enough.”
While Toulouse packed their defence and sought to frustrate Monaco and Falcao got next to no change out of the excellent Abdennour, Ranieri believes that Sunday’s encounter, with top spot the prize for the winner, will be a far more open affair as Marseille boast a considerable attacking threat themselves.
“They play like us, with four at the back, two defensive midfielders and three attacking midfielders behind Gignac so both sides have lots of quality and I think it will be an open game and will give us an idea of what level we are at.”
Monaco may have the financial muscle to pose a threat to reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain, but the Marseille squad has far greater experience of Ligue 1 and Elie Baup’s side are also brimming with confidence after a fine start to the campaign. OM were the only club in the division to win their first three matches, although after comfortably dispatching of Guingamp and Evian in their opening two games they found life much tougher against Valenciennes last time out, requiring a late Gignac goal to seal a 1-0 victory. With rebuilding work at the Stade Vélodrome coming along nicely and the capacity increased, Marseille are likely to be an even more fearsome proposition at home this season and defender Rod Fanni even dared suggest this week that they are genuine title contenders.
“I don’t like to get ahead of myself but we have no reason to be envious of many teams in Ligue 1,” he said.
“It is not ridiculous to think that winning the title is possible. The atmosphere in the squad is good and things are always easier when you are winning.”
This match kicks off a month of September which will also see OM make their return to the Champions League with a mouth-watering home clash against Arsenal, and Baup hopes that his team will continue to get better.
“At the start of the season, the points are important and winning games has helped us prepare for the month of September when we will have a lot of matches to play close together,” he said.
“We still have a lot of things to work on but it is better to correct things and keep working while you are winning games.”
Both clubs have had the advantage of being able to field settled sides in the opening weeks of the campaign, although Baup did have to replace the injured Giannelli Imbula with Benoît Cheyrou in central midfield against Valenciennes. The arrival of Dimitri Payet from Lille has provided a boost to the attack, but Gignac has so far stolen the limelight, his three goals from three games helping him win a recall to the French national squad for the first time since the 2010 World Cup.
- Giannelli Imbula is probably out with an ankle injury
- Saber Khalifa is expected to start on the bench
- Joao Moutinho and Nabil Dirar are expected to miss out.
Possible Line ups
This should be a cracking encounter, both teams full of confidence with attack minded line ups. Marseille perhaps have the more settled team but Monaco have been very impressive for a team still to get used to playing with each other. Common sense says that come May it will be between Monaco and PSG for the title but Marseille are looking like the team most likely to challenge them. In Valbuena and Payet they have real creativity and Gignac has started the season in sensational form.
Falcao has found himself somewhat overshadowed by lesser known team mates so far, but he has been performing well and it should only be a matter of time till the goals come.