PARIS: Marseille and Paris Saint Germain clash on Sunday in the latest installment of French football’s stormiest rivalry with security so tight that only 150 fans will travel from the capital to the Mediterranean coast.
Marseille go into the game at their Stade Velodrome home on top of the table with a three-point lead over PSG while Carlo Ancelotti’s revamped PSG remain just one of three unbeaten teams in the league, along with Lorient and Bordeaux.
But the Champions League hopefuls came crashing down in midweek when they fell 1-0 to a late Porto strike for their first defeat of the campaign and Ancelotti must now rally his troops against Elie Baup’s resilient Marseille.
“We are not yet ready as a team which is normal and we need time and experience to deal with the big matches,” said the 53-year-old Italian.
PSG had won their previous five matches in all competitions and seemed to be building up a head of steam heading into the hostile atmosphere of Marseille’s home ground, but even star signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic admits he is not at the top of his game.
“Personally I could have done a lot more to help my team get a result (against Porto) but I am not yet at the level where I would like to be,” said the Swedish captain, who can point to seven goals in six league matches in the face of criticism.
Baup saw his team taken apart 4-1 in their last league outing away to Valenciennes but fielded a weakened line-up, including former English rebel Joey Barton who made his home debut, during Thursday’s Europa League match against Cypriot upstarts AEL Limassol.
It remains to be seen whether Barton will feature on Sunday, but the home supporters have already taken the veteran and on-loan QPR midfielder to their hearts which was evident in a banner held aloft by fans during a recent home match that read: “Welcome, sweet and tender hooligan”.
Saint Etienne host Nancy on Friday in the first of a 10-match slate that features former clubs of current UEFA president and French legend Michel Platini, before defending champions Montpellier host relagation candidates Evian in the early Saturday game.
Montpellier have had a wretched start to their defence, with the city also embroiled in a handball match-fixing scandal.
But there was some positive news for the club when Souleymane Camara snatched a late equaliser at Schalke 04 in midweek, for their first ever Champions League point.
Seven-time champions Lyon come into their tie against surprise packages Lorient in third spot and four points off the lead, but will need to be on top of their game to halt the Britanny club’s seven-match unbeaten start to the season.
Fourth-placed Bordeaux face a short turnaround as they travel back from Newcastle following their Europa League tie against Alan Pardew’s men on Thursday and a Sunday afternoon match in Brest. -AFP
St Etienne v Nancy
Montpellier v Evian, Bastia v Troyes, Lille v Ajaccio, Reims v Nice, Sochaux v Rennes, Toulouse v Valenciennes
Brest v Bordeaux, Lorient v Lyon, Marseille v Paris St Germain
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- French League reschedule Marseille v Ajaccio match
- Marseille beats Nancy 3-1 in French league
- Marseille draws 2-2 with Lyon in French league
- Holders Marseille reach French League Cup final