PSG v Marseille – Parc des Princes at 19:45 live on BT Sport 1
Paris Saint-Germain have dominated French football over the past four years and with their traditional rivals from the south, Marseille, struggling, Le Classique lost a little bit of magic.
However, Sunday’s meeting between the two Ligue 1 powerhouses promises plenty. Even at this early stage, there’s a lot on the line for defending champions PSG as L’OM bid to begin their journey back to the top under new management.
Marseille on their way back
On Monday, American businessman Frank McCourt completed the purchase of Les Phoceens and the former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers promised significant investment, which has captured the imagination of Marseille fans.
McCourt’s demanded a top-three finish every season and was quick to dismiss head coach Franck Passi and install Rudi Garcia in the hot-seat on Thursday morning. Garcia will be on the touchline at the Parc des Princes, where he celebrate the Ligue 1 title with Lille back in 2011.
Not since 2013 have Marseille concluded their Ligue 1 in the Champions League qualification positions but there’s a real feeling around the club that their fortunes are beginning to change. Sunday’s Classique will give L’OM a perfect opportunity to showcase their newfound spirit against their bitter rivals.
Les Phoceens aren’t without problems, mind. A solitary success in 11 on their travels. With Abou Diaby, Remy Cabella, William Vainqueur and Romain Alessandrini all absent, Garcia will be without a number of options on Sunday.
However, Lassana Diarra should be ready to start in central midfield again. In Marseille’s most recent three outings the side have picked up seven points with impressively dominant displays against Nantes, Angers and Metz.
Emery’s biggest test
The visitors have lost each of their last 11 games against the capital club and leaked at least twice in each of the past 13 showdowns. And although PSG have suffered just four defeats in 38 league matches, this fixture is arguably Unai Emery’s biggest test since arriving in France.
Emery has already ditched the 4-2-3-1 that started the season so brightly against Lyon in the Trophée des Champions. For a copy of the 4-3-3 that served Laurent Blanc so well but supporters and pundits have remained unimpressed with progress at the Parc des Princes.
Better teams would have taken at least one of the chances Basel created on Wednesday night. Defeats at Toulouse and Monaco saw Les Rouge-et-Bleu accused of a lack of heart and desire in two toothless performances.
Further tests against Bastia, Metz, Caen and Dijon have raised questions about Emery’s tactics and philosophy. A sole 45 minutes against Caen the only occasion of which PSG have really impressed.
The hosts have appeared ponderous, devoid of imagination and creativity and directionless since the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They might have churned out four successive victories but Angel Di Maria scored only his first goal of the season in midweek as they struggle in the final third.
Elsewhere, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti are major doubts for Emery. As they bid to enhance a record of winning 15 of their last 19 home league games by more than two goals on Sunday night.
Asian Handicap angle
There are plenty of questions surrounding both camps ahead of the weekend meeting and whilst I’d expect PSG to shake-off their recent malaise for the biggest Ligue 1 match of the season, I wouldn’t want to support a comfortable Asian Handicap victory against the rejuvenated guests.
Marseille have shown they’ve the quality in forward areas to contribute to the final score having struck in seven of their last eight outings. And with PSG clearing the -1.5 Asian Handicap hurdle in just three of their last 15 meetings with L’OM, the value resides with the visitors.
Despite their very public problems over the past three years, Les Phoceens have lost only 3/17 (18%) of their road trips to top-six teams during that sample and I’ll count on Marseille again keeping the contest competitive this weekend.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Marseille +1.5 at 2.07
Prices correct at time of writing.
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