Trophée des Champions

Tonight the official French football calendar commences with the Champions’ Trophy, to be played between rivals Olympique de Marseille, the winners of Ligue 1, and Paris Saint Germain, the winners of the French Cup. After last year’s first excursion to Quebec, this year the final will take place in Radès, 15km outside of Tunis, Tunisia. The match will be played at the Stade du 7 novembre, with a 55 000 capacity, which was built for the 2001 Mediterranian Games, and is named after the date the current President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali became the President of Tunisia in 1987.

The rivalry, and fan problems, associated with this match are well documented, however historically OM have had the wood over PSG in Ligue 1 (OM won 27, D16 Lost 17) but PSG have the ascendancy in the cup competitions, having beaten OM in their only meeting in the League Cup (3-2 aet in the 2003/04 season) and are on a 5 match streak of eliminating OM in the French Cup, which includes their 2-1 win in the 2006 final at the Stade de France. PSG also have some history in the Champions’ Trophy having competed in it 4 times, beating Nantes on penalties in 1995 and beating Lens 1-0 in 1998, but losing twice on penalties to Lyon (2004 and 2006). Rades 2010 will be OM’s first participation in this competition.

OM have something of a problem up front in this match, with Mamadou Niang, Jordan Ayew and Brandao suspended and Morientes released, so it looks like Mali international Mamadou Samassa will be leading the line. This is actually an excellent opportunity for OM to put him in the shop window (he is transfer listed) and give Arles-Avignon, Valenciennes, West Ham, Wigan, Blackburn and Stoke City a good chance to look at him.

My projected OM lineup (with thanks to lephoceen)

————–Mandanda——————-

Azpilicueta – Hilton – Diawara – Taiwo

——————Cisse ———————

———Kabore ——– Lucho———–

Valbuena ———————– Ben Arfa

—————-Samassa——————–

I’d like to see Ben Arfa play because it may well be his last game for the club (he’s been heavily linked with German, Italian and English clubs), he’s of Tunisian descent and it would be nice to farewell him with a win. However, Dede Ayew, hot off the heels of a sparkling world cup is likely to play. On a side note I’m really happy to see Kabore establishing his name at OM, he’s really classy with superb technique. I’m not sure about PSG’s side, however they appear to have recruited well (Nenê and Bodmer), but are without Réunion born striker Guillaume Hoarau but might just take advantage of who isn’t available for OM (Niang, Brandao, Heinze (fatigue)). If I had to make a prediction I’d sit on the fence and say I can see this one going to penalties. Either way, it’s exciting that French football is back and that it is being exposed to the world (with the match being telecast in 52 countries), sadly albeit not Australia.

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OM Transfer Update – Part 1

I love this time of year as a Marseille fan. Firstly, it’s never dull, usually a new manager is looking to stamp his mark on the team so there’s lots of action. Secondly, we’re always linked to Didier Drogba. I like Didier and have massive respect for him as a player and as a man http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2007/07/ivorycoast200707, and I’m sure one day he’ll return to OM, if not, oh well, but it’s fun to hope. Thirdly, I’m really enjoying this year as we really seem to have a plan of attack. Fourthly, we’re linked with all sorts of silly names, who excite but rarely arrive.

Firstly, to those who have departed. Laurent Bonnart will be missed, having not renewed his contract, however I suppose it’s good business sense given his age and wage demands (and who OM have replaced him with, but we’ll get there later). Bakary Kone has gone to the Gulf for a reported 4 million Euros. Sadly he probably will not be that big a loss, I always thought he operated better in systems with 2 up front (rather than Deschamps’ preferred 3), however his pace, agility, mesmeric skill and (lack of) size made him one of my favourite players to watch. I remember it was rumoured Gerets had said something along the lines of “Get me Kone and I’ll get you the league), it didn’t happen, and he missed out on the Cote d’Ivoire’s world cup squad. I hope he does well in the Gulf and makes a lot of money.
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OM – The Goalkeepers

In looking to where l’OM are at, and where they are going, I think it is important to review where the club are at with regard to keepers, defence, midfield and up front. I’m starting today (obviously) with the goalkeepers.

I think Steve Mandanda gets a bit of a unfair criticism, although I don’t dispute Lloris should be France’s number one. Much maligned this year in goal (especially by contributors on this site), I think he has all the attributes required to be world class. Firstly youth, for all his experience having played 175 league matches, 34 times in Europe and 13 times for France, he is only 25.
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A Case for the Defence

As an undergraduate law student I feel like I’m able to shoehorn that horrendous pun into the title – and make no apologies for that. Last season, the defence of OM defined their season. When they wobbled, the team was vulnerable, no more so than the 2-0 loss against Auxerre in the final match of 2009, the low point of the season in my opinion.I remember watching that game, Bordeaux’s lead extending to 11 points and wondering if Marseille would be in the Champions League next season.

However, after Christmas, with the unreliable Heinze – Diawara partnership being broken, Marseille added the defensive stability to the gelling attack and the class of Lucho to win the league with 2 matches to spare.

Having stuttered and faltered early on, leaving Mandanda exposed on more than a few occasions, Deschamps decided to shunt Heinze to the left. With the weakness of Hilton exposed, Deschamps’ decision to move Stephane M’Bia (against his will) to partner Diawara proved to be, in my opinion, the decision that won Marseille the league. M’Bia’s positioning was as excellent as his distribution and Diawara’s explosiveness and aerial presence at either end proved invaluable.
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Matchday 16 Sunday probable line ups.

Here are the probable line ups for the Sunday Ligue 1 match ups, according to the Ligue 1 website:

 Sunday, December 06, 2009

  17:00 – AJ Auxerre / AS Nancy Lorraine 

Auxerre: Sorin (c); Hengbart, A. Coulibaly, Mignot, Grichting; Birsa, Ndinga, Chafni (or Dudka), A. Capoue; Contout, Niculae

Nancy: Bracigliano (c); Lotiès, Ouaddou, Macaluso, Lemaître (or Brison); Féret, André Luiz, P. Béreneguer, Malonga (or Bakar); Hadji, Dia 
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Probable lineups for Matchday 16

Here are the list of probable teams for the Saturday matches in Ligue 1. Most notibally is that Yoann Gourcuff is back for Bordeaux. Here are the line ups, courtsey of the Ligue 1 official website:

 Saturday December 5 2009

  19:00 – Montpellier Hérault SC / Le Mans UC 72 

Montpellier: Jourdren; Yanga-Mbiwa, Dzodic, Spahic, Jeunechamp; Pitau, Marveaux, Costa; Belhanda, Camara, Aït-Fana

Le Mans: Makaridze; Corchia, Joao Paulo, Cerdan, Loriot; M. Dossevi, Al. Keita, F. Thomas, Baal; Le Tallec, Maïga
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Diawarra not moving, Fernando might be.

Fernando: "70% chance" he is gone.

In the last few days, there was talk about Marseille defender Souleymane Diawarra moving to Paris Saint-Germain during the winter transfer window.

The player’s agent, Karim Aklil, said that the player is committed to his four-year contract with Olympique Marseille.

Diawarra recently made a comment that he never knows what happends from day to day. And that “maybe tomorrow, I will be playing for PSG.” This comment gave the French press some interesting gossip, but that is all that it seems to be, gossip.
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