Le Classique has been a rather one sided event in recent times. Paris Saint-Germain have totally dominated rivals Olympique de Marseille since the Qatar Sports Investments takeover in 2011, recording ten consecutive wins. That’s not to say PSG’s good fortune will continue though. Marseille have appointed Rudi Garcia as their new manager and have new ownership, both of which will no doubt give them a boost, while PSG have had a somewhat problematic start to the season. For the first time in years, there’s a renewed anticipation heading into Sunday’s clash between the two French giants at the Parc des Princes.
Marseille’s new ownership, led by Frank McCourt (former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers), have stated that they have huge ambitions for the club and their first move was to hire Garcia, who was the 2011 Ligue 1 manager of the year at Lille OSC. This has been the first bit of positive news for Marseille since the signing of Marcelo Bielsa in 2014 and supporters have to be buzzing.
While major changes aren’t expected to be visible for a Marseille side who currently sit in 12th place in the league, the new found enthusiasm will surely have an effect on the players. Not to mention, some of the players will be looking to impress so they can keep their place in the team. L’OM have only lost one in their last five matches and will probably feel they can at least take some points off a Paris side that has looked shaky this season even against minnow opponents.
Unai Emery will certainly have been buoyed by the availability of key players Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, and Angel Di Maria, who were all reported to be doubts prior. The only player missing is Javier Pastore, who has been struggling with a calf injury. PSG provisionally sit third in the league, following AS Monaco’s 6-2 triumph over Montpellier HSC on Friday and pressure will be on Emery to come away with three points to keep pace at the top of the table. Given the manner in which PSG have dominated this fixture, even a draw won’t be good enough for the Basque manager as the team’s performances have not been impressive and supporters (and those who love to hate PSG) are starting to doubt his tactics.
If Thiago Motta, who has been out for about a week, starts the game, the key battle to watch out for will be between the Italian and Lassana Diarra. Last season, Lass, who was repeatedly linked with a move to Paris last summer, dominated the midfield during both league encounters and stopping him will be crucial to curbing any threat Marseille possess.
The potential presence of the ultras also promises to be intruguing, especially considering the rivalry between both teams, and this match could go a long way to prove their readiness to make their full return. The club will not tolerate any type of violence in the stadium and hopefully the ultras can create a great atmosphere without things getting out of hand.
Starting XI Prediction:
(4-3-3) Areola; Aurier, Thiago SIlva, Marquinhos, Kurzawa; Verratti, Motta/Rabiot, Matuidi; Di Maria, Cavani, Lucas
Substitutes: Trapp, Meunier, Maxwell, Krychowiak, Motta/Rabiot, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jese.
PSG 1-0 Marseille
Photograph by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images