Prediction: Olympique Marseille vs Paris Saint-Germain
Verdict: Lionel Messi to score
Best odds: 33/20
On Sunday, Olympique Marseille are set to host Paris Saint-Germain in what at this point seems like the most important match in the Ligue 1 season, one that might well end up being decisive in the title. Depending on the outcome, it could make the leaders of the race, the defending champions, a bit more comfortable, or it could make the race very tight. It could, of course, leave as is, should the spoils be shared at the final whistle.
It’s been a very good season for Marseille, who currently occupy the second place in the Ligue 1 table with a five-point deficit compared to PSG at the top, though they have reason to look frequently over their shoulder in this race, with AS Monaco sitting third and only two points less. The situation clearly shows how important this match is for the race – a win over the leaders would take Igor Tudor’s side to within the touching distance from the top; a defeat would leave them with the whole mountain standing in front of them again.
Marseille will be buoyed by the fact that they already beat PSG at the Velodrome this month, a 2-1 win in the round of 16 of the French Cup, though the league is, of course, a different prospect. Apart from that match, Marseille’s last-six run also includes a 1-1 draw at home against Monaco, a 0-2 win away to Nantes, a 1-3 defeat at home against OGC Nice, a 0-2 win away to Clermont Foot, and a 2-3 win away to Toulouse. That’s four wins, one draw and one defeat – not too bad, though that defeat to Nice does put a bit of a stain on their otherwise respectable run of form.
Having finished second last season, Marseille played in the Champions League this term, and they finished last in Group D, behind Tottenham Hotspur, Eintracht Frankfurt and Sporting Lisbon.
Tudor has several injury issues to work around. Midfielder Amine Harit is a long-term absentee due to a serious knee problem. Defenders Samuel Gigot and Chancel Mbemba are also out, through an ankle injury and a suspension, respectively.
With Pau Lopez in goal, Eric Bailly should come into the lineup to help form the back line with Sead Kolasinac and Leonardo Balerdi. Jordan Veretout should pair up with Matteo Guendouzi in the middle of the park, with Nuno Tavares and Jonathan Clauss covering the flanks as wing-backs. Cengiz Under and Ruslan Malinovskyi should provide support to Alexis Sanchez upfront.
One thing that could play in the hands of Marseille at the moment is the fact that PSG are desperately chasing the frustratingly illusive dream of winning the Champions League, which at the moment seems very difficult. They are scheduled to travel to Munich soon, where they need to overturn a one-goal deficit, the work of their own academy graduate, Kingsley Coman.
On the other hand, Christophe Galtier and his men will, like their opponents, be aware of the importance of this game and the fact that a win at the Velodrome would provide them with some breathing space, more freedom to focus on Munich over the following days. As has been said, they have a five-point advantage over the hosts in this match, and extending it would be a most-welcome relief.
The two defeats already mentioned, the 0-1 at home against Bayern and the 2-1 away to Marseille in the French Cup, are, of course, a part of their last-six run of competitive matches, and they lost 3-1 away to Monaco as well. The remaining three games they won, beating Montpellier away by 1-3, Toulouse 2-1 at home, and LOSC Lille 4-3 at home in a thrilling encounter.
With five minutes to go, they were 2-3 down, but then, up stepped two of their main three men. Kylian Mbappe equalized in the 87th minute, and Lionel Messi struck a trademark free-kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time to win it for the champions.
Having scored in that match as well, Neymar was stretchered off with an ankle sprain that will keep the Brazilian forward out for while. He’ll join midfielder Renato Sanches (hamstring) in the treatment room. Left-back Nuno Mendes picked up a knock that reportedly isn’t too serious, but the presence of Juan Bernat makes risking that knee needless. Right-back Achraf Hakimi is a doubt through a hamstring problem.
Gianluigi Donnarumma will be standing in front of him, with Marqinhos and Sergio Ramos forming a highly experienced centre-back duo. Nordi Mukiele is expected to take up Hakimi’s role on the right defensive flank, with Bernat on the left. In the middle of the park, Marco Veratti and Danilo Perreira should play, with Vitinha slightly more advanced. In the absence of Neymar, Mbappe should shift to the left side of the attacking line while Hugo Ekitike comes to take the central role. Messi will, of course, play on the right.
This is arguably the biggest game in French football, and big games have always been Messi’s specialty. The Argentinian’s immense quality will be even more important with Neymar out, and anything Mbappe may do will likely depend on him. This is what Messi is made for, and even at the age of 35, he isn’t showing any signs of deterioration.
Verdict: Lionel Messi to score
Best odds: 33/20
Full Story: https://www.soccernews.com/prediction-olympique-marseille-vs-paris-saint-germain/349820/
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