CLASSIQUE: PART I
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN VS OLYMPIQUE DE MARSEILLE
VENUE: PARC DES PRINCES
DATE: 24 FEBRUARY 2013
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Here we go, the beginning of a double bill of classiques as Marseille make the visit to the Parc des Princes tomorrow night before visiting again on the Tuesday in the last-16 of the Coupe de France.
Tomorrow’s league encounter could have huge implications on the title race. We know a win for us could very well put Marseille two steps back but a victory for them will certainly reaffirm themselves back in the hunt for a 10th championship.
It is not easy for these games to be overshadowed by other factors but there is no denying the focus for those on the outside looking in will be on the possible debut of David Beckham. His arrival has generated a buzz, largely positive but of course there will be some sceptics claiming the move was purely for marketing. The Englishman will have a fellow compatriot and adversary in the form of Joey Barton to contend with who ‘IS’ one of them sceptics after undermining Becks’ playing ability earlier in the week – claiming he is more of a superstar off the pitch than on it. That may be true, but there is absolutely denying that Beckham – even at 37 years of age – still possesses an incredible talent with his long and short pass game. On top of that, his ability from dead ball situations are still bordering world class and not forgetting his endeavour which is second to none.
The Barton factor does add some extra spice. The media has played up to this in France, in particular France Football who manipulated a picture of Becks as an angel and Barton as a demon on their front cover.
The world’s media will be gathered in Paris more so because of Beckham and it will be naïve to think otherwise. It is still to be confirmed whether or not he will start but he should be involved at some point. Where will he play? Well, the obvious place is in central midfield sitting just in front of the back four with Blaise Matuidi. Marco Verratti has been in terrific form so for Carlo Ancelotti to drop him would be surprising but the young Italian’s rashness has been evident in the last couple of weeks when he has gone in for tackles so that could play a part in his thinking. It is impossible really to second guess the team at this point but unless Carlo has a three man midfield, which is unlikely considering we are at home, it will either be Verratti or Beckham jockeying for that starting berth alongside Matuidi.
Coming into the game on the back of that horrendous defeat away to Sochaux, now is a perfect opportunity to show off our character and respond rigorously. The performance was just as bad as the result at the Stade Auguste-Bonal. Time and time again we were vulnerable to the counter-attack thanks to Ryad Boudebouz and Eduoard Butin who were a constant threat. They also gave us no time on the ball, harassing us constantly when we had possession and it hurt us. We scored two goals but no doubt about it we were second best all night. Sochaux took full advantage down our right-hand side with Gregory Van der Wiel and Clement Chantome having no answers, being exposed and looking lost. It was also the most vulnerable our defence has looked all season and that is largely down to the fact we are now missing our skipper. Thiago Silva is back in training but will he be fit for tomorrow? Remains to be seen but Ancelotti will enlighten us today at his press conference.
So as for the visitors? They have just come off the back of a much needed win at home to Valenciennes after two poor results to Nancy and Evian. Although they are six points off us, a win for them can change all that and they know it. I will be surprised to see a reserved Marseille turn up, they will take heart from Sochaux’s game plan last week by pressing us when we have the ball, getting up in our faces and squeeze. We really did struggle with that last weekend and I am sure Elie Baup has identified that.
No Loic Remy for them these days of course but Andre Ayew and Andre-Pierre Gignac have accumulated 15 league goals between them and they can certainly hurt us. Not to mention the robust Joey Barton who will be chomping on the bit in the middle of the park to upset our apple cart. He loves a battle as we know but he will be up against a tough cookie in Matuidi that is for sure.
They do leak goals though, 29 this season, 13 more than ourselves. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored two absolute belters during the 2-2 draw in the clash at the Velodrome last October and he is due a performance. He is as important to us as ever, his goals have carried us at times, but since the winter break he has not quite shown the form he did before it.
So, all the ingredients are there for a mouth-watering classique. Certainly a defining one in terms of the title race and hopefully Les Parisiens can get the job done before the next rendezvous on Tuesday in the cup. Bring it on!
Note: We beat Marseille 2-0 in the Coupe de la Ligue last October thanks to goals from Thiago Silva and Jeremy Menez.
FROM A MARSEILLE PERSPECTIVE
THOUGHTS OF ANDREW SWAN WHO OWNS THE IMPRESSIVE @MarseilleUK
“Having stuttered since the winter break Marseille showed how they have managed to stay at the top end of the table last Sunday with a hard fought win over Valenciennes. The win was ugly and they will need more of the same on Sunday if they are to pick up a positive result against PSG. After spurning a number of good chances it was up to Rod Fanni to net the winning goal a minute from time, demonstrating the ‘never say die’ attitude OM have shown at times this season. January signings Foued Kadir and Alaixys Romao settled into the starting 11 well, their understanding of each other and their teammates only likely to grow and improve game by game. Had results not panned out the way they did last weekend, then there would be far less pressure on both teams, however, a win for OM would put them only 2 points behind psg, undoubtedly getting their season back on track. There is no doubt of the importance of a win for both teams, so let’s hope the match lives up to our expectations!”