Revitalised Marseille dreaming of French title ahead of PSG clash
Marseille's fierce rivalry with Paris Saint-Germain has lost some of its edge in recent years as the Qatar-owned club have dominated French football, but OM's resurgence under Igor Tudor has their passionate supporters dreaming of beating the capital club to the title.
PSG have been French champions in eight of the past 10 years and have lost just two of their last 27 meetings with Marseille -- whose last Ligue 1 crown came in 2010 under Didier Deschamps.
Yet one of those defeats came earlier this month, when Marseille outfought and outclassed their old foes to win 2-1 in a French Cup tie played in a frenzied atmosphere at the Velodrome.
The stadium will be the scene of this Sunday's rematch, with 65,000 home fans hoping to see their side once again get one over on Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and PSG's other stars.
All meetings between the clubs are huge occasions, but this is a potentially pivotal game in the fight for the title, with second-placed Marseille knowing a win will leave them just two points adrift of a stuttering PSG at the top of the table.
"Of course we are thinking about the title, but we are just taking things one game at a time," said centre-back Chancel Mbemba after Marseille's 3-2 win at Toulouse last weekend.
While PSG have struggled in 2023, Marseille have won 12 and drawn one of 14 matches played since going out of the Champions League at the start of November.
- Don't mock Tudor -
It is all a far cry from the beginning of the season, when Igor Tudor was booed by the Velodrome when his name was read out ahead of Marseille's opening game with supporters unimpressed by the identity of the man chosen to replace the popular Jorge Sampaoli as coach.
Yet the 44-year-old former Juventus and Croatia defender had done a fine job leading Verona to ninth place in Serie A last season and was headhunted by Pablo Longoria, the 37-year-old Spanish president of Marseille who runs the club on behalf of American owner Frank McCourt.
It turns out that the fiery Tudor has the passion and authority needed to win over the volatile Marseille support and the club are on course to achieve their objective of a return to the Champions League next season while being able to dream of something even more special.
OM -- who like to remind PSG that they remain the only French club to have won Europe's elite club competition -- will nevertheless be handicapped by the absence of Mbemba due to suspension.
"This is a crucial and special match. The win in the Cup has given us confidence but we need to repeat that level of performance," warned Tudor.
Player to watch: Alexis Sanchez
Now 34, Sanchez's decision to join Marseille after falling down the pecking order at Inter Milan has proven a successful one. The Chilean has rediscovered something like his best form, scoring 13 goals in all competitions this season including the opener from the penalty spot in the recent Cup win over PSG.
Sanchez's never-say-die attitude has made him a firm favourite with the Marseille faithful. Sunday's game will see him renew acquaintances with Messi, with whom he played at Barcelona between 2011 and 2014, notably winning one La Liga title in 2013. Neymar, another of his old teammates at the Camp Nou, will miss the match with an ankle injury.
5 - The number of defeats suffered by PSG in all competitions in 2023 and the number of points that separate the Ligue 1 leaders from Marseille in second place
12 - PSG had gone 12 years without losing away to Marseille before being beaten by their great rivals at the Velodrome in the French Cup earlier this month
699 - Messi is just one goal away from reaching 700 in his club career
Lille v Brest (2000)
Angers v Lyon (1600), Montpellier v Lens (2000)
Lorient v Auxerre (1200), Ajaccio v Troyes, Clermont v Strasbourg, Nantes v Rennes, Reims v Toulouse (all 1400), Monaco v Nice (1605), Marseille v Paris Saint-Germain (1945)
(All times GMT)