Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain clash tomorrow in the latest installment of French soccer’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 side remain just one of three unbeaten teams in Ligue 1, along with Lorient and Girondins de Bordeaux, but the UEFA 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,” the 53-year-old Italian said.
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 PSG’s 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 he fielded a weakened lineup, including former English rebel Joey Barton, who made his home debut during Thursday’s Europa League match against Cypriot upstarts AEL.
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.”
AS Saint-Etienne were scheduled to host AS Nancy-Lorraine yesterday in the first of a 10-match program, before defending champions Montpellier Herault host Evian Thonon Gaillard in the early game today.
Montpellier have had a wretched start to their defense of the title, 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 equalizer at Schalke 04 in midweek for their first ever UEFA Champions League point.
Olympique Lyonnais go into their tie against surprise packages Lorient in third spot and four points off the lead, but they will need to be on top of their game to halt the Britanny club’s seven-match unbeaten start to the season.
Fourth-placed Girondins de Bordeaux face Stade Brestois 29 tomorrow afternoon.