Sports Can Marseille keep pace to qualify for the Champions...

Can Marseille keep pace to qualify for the Champions League?

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The most optimistic will speak of a perfect alignment of the planets. The 20th day has, it is true, consolidated, even a little more, the status of dolphin of Marseillais. When OM, undefeated for 9 games now (8 successes and 1 draw), tore themselves up on Friday, to emerge unscathed from a tricky trip to Rennes (1-0), Lille notably dropped ballast Sunday in Dijon ( 1-0). Relegated to 8 lengths, the Bretons are likely, however, to reduce their handicap in favor of a late match this Wednesday in Nîmes.

Even if exaggeration is, sometimes, a trait of character on the side of the Old port, one is careful not to look higher, in the direction of the Parisian ogre. "It is not our struggle, our battle. The position of PSG does not occupy our minds, our goal is to finish second. It would be a very good result ”, hammered a few weeks ago, André Villas-Boas, the architect of renewal.

His speech in 2020 has not changed. No one will take issue with the world of difference between the two "best enemies". "Paris has lost 3 games like us in Ligue 1, but the bitter memory of the October Clasico (4-0) is there to put our ideas back in place," insists Jean-Claude, a subscriber since the Tapie years.

Similarities with 2015 and 2018

An entire city, frustrated by years of rebirth without a future, finds itself, however, dreaming waking of a qualification for the Champions League. The most prestigious club competition has invariably been hidden since 2014. At least twice, in 2015 with Marcelo Bielsa at the helm, then in 2018 under the rule of Rudi Garcia, it seemed to offer itself to rowdy southerners before moving steal from the final packaging.

Each time, the Olympians already posted 41 units at the same stage of the season. And invariably they finished 4th, at the door of the podium. The only notable difference, in 2015 as in 2018, the prosecutors were standing in a pocket handkerchief. This season, the Olympians have a substantial but not necessarily comfortable mattress.

Asked about it after the victory at Roazhon Park, Villas-Boas was wrapped behind a certain caution. Is it the memory of the painful past or more prosaically a clever posture? His group, in any case, followed suit. “We must not ignite, insists midfielder Valentin Rongier. We always say the same thing, but it's true. There are still a lot of matches left. "

“A current of enthusiasm carries the team”

Angel scorer out of the bench against Rennes, the Dutchman Kevin Strootman abounds. “We shouldn't be talking about the Champions League or anything else. We just won against a direct rival, and it's very important. The dialectic is perfectly established, intended, no doubt, not to attract too much pressure. No need, therefore, to rely on the main players to collect peremptory statements.

"You can't hide when you're second at this point in the season," concedes just Steve Mandanda. Now we show humility. It is not simple, we know, but we respond present. We have to keep this state of mind there. We will see at the end of the championship. It goes very fast. All it takes is a bad run to see the teams pick up. "

André Villas-Boas plays the caution card mid-season.REUTERS / Stéphane Mahé
André Villas-Boas plays the caution card mid-season.REUTERS / Stéphane Mahé

With two competitions to manage, the Coupe de France and the Ligue 1, Marseille seems, compared to some of its competitors or pretended such as Lyon, still in the running on four tables, less exposed to physical wear and tear. Elie Baup, the last technician to lead the Phocaeans to the Champions League in May 2013, shows less precaution in language. “The C1 I believe in it, of course. The ranking speaks for them. They are regular, rotate at two points per encounter, it is the ideal schedule. The gaps are widening. The Velodrome once again becomes an impregnable fortress. A current of enthusiasm carries the team. "

Watch out for suspensions or injuries

The convincing current course has similarities with that of 2013. "We also had a small group, recalls Baup. It promotes a positive dynamic, adherence to a common project. A dynamic was quickly created. But a dull threat remains, namely the players' injuries. If several major elements fail in the future, when OM, pressured by financial fair play, already does not have enough staff, the mission could then prove to be very complex.

"This may be the only limit," concludes Baup. Also pay attention to the boxes ( Editor's note: against Angers on January 25, Payet, Kamara and Sarr will be absent ). These are parameters to keep in mind. Without Dimitri, the technical leader, it is not the same. The remark also applies to Mandanda. In return, Thauvin will return in early February after his operation on the right ankle in September. Even if he does not immediately recover his best level, he will be a perfect joker for the spring sprint. "

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