Marseille v Nice – Stade Vélodrome at 20:05 Live at BT Sport

Marseille aims to seal a place in the Europa League final on Thursday night and Les Phocéens could be forgiven for putting Ligue 1 progression to one side. However, OM is right in the mix of a fascinating battle to conclude the campaign in the top-three and secure Champions League qualification.

Rudi Garcia named a strong side last weekend for Les Olympiens’ trip to Angers despite being sandwiched in between their Europa League semi-finals. Skipper Dimitri Payet started on the bench but Marseille clearly meant business from the off and in the second minute, they led.

Forward Valere Germain – starting ahead of Kostas Mitroglou – was fouled in the penalty area, allowing Florian Thauvin to score from the spot. Thauvin – one of OM’s players of the season – has now struck 20 goals for the season, including in each of his past five fixtures for the first time in his career.

Frustratingly for Les Phocéens fans, OM then set back. Angers dominated possession, forced Yohann Pele into numerous saves and spurned an open goal before eventually finding a leveler with just over 10 minutes to play. The hosts now sit one place and one point outside the top-three.

Nice’s battle for a European place

Fifth-place in France would secure Europa League qualification and Nice’s hopes to secure a continental berth hit a snag last weekend. Lucien Favre’s team traveled to out-of-form Strasbourg but were unable to seal maximum points, Mario Balotelli’s second-half penalty earning Les Aiglons a 1-1 draw.

The result didn’t suit either side in Alsace but Nice did their best to force a result after falling behind in the first-half. Balotelli, Dante and Pierre Lees-Melou all came very close to getting on the scoresheet away from the penalty but Favre’s men did seem to miss the suspended Alassane Plea.

Hosts expected to win Cote d’Azur derby

The final furlong is in sight in Ligue 1 and although Marseille has been a little distracted by their Europa League exploits, we should expect Garcia’s group to be fully focussed on a derby date in front of their home Stade Velodrome supporters on Sunday night.

OM have W10-D5-L2 on home soil this season with W9-D3-L1 recorded when teams below them in the standings have arrived. Seven of those nine triumphs arrived by a margin of two goals or more and the hosts’ wealth of attacking weapons make them well capable of cutting loose.

Nice has W1-D1-L3 against the top-four this term, including a 4-2 reverse at home to Marseille earlier in the season, and a meek W5-D6-L6 road return suggests Les Aiglons might not have the ability to match a Marseille side that’s hell-bent on a return to the Champions League.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Marseille -0.75 at 1.790

By @MarkOHaire

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