Toulouse-Olympique Marseille: restarting on the right foot08 jan 2017
It is traditional for matches on the first weekend of the New Year to be dedicated to the Coupe de France. On Sunday, OM traveled to another denizen of Ligue 1, Toulouse Football Club. As well as being first opponents of the 2016-2017 season in the championship, TFC was also first on the list of matches in 2017. Last August, the two teams went home with zero goals to nil at the Orange Velodrome, but the sands have shifted in the meantime: Marseille's owners, chairman and manager have all changed since then. OM's results are on an upward swing. Rudi Garcia and his men finished the year firing on all cylinders. They were the best team in Ligue 1 during December, with four wins in as many outings. These wins have allowed them to go from sixth place to joint fifth alongside Guingamp.
The winter break, therefore, arrived at time when OM was on amazing form. While the pause allowed the players to take a break after five months of competitive soccer, the hope must be that the virtuous cycle would not be interrupted. This was the task that Rudi Garcia and his staff set themselves since training resumed. The Marseilles team met up on December 31st, a few hours before the the New Year celebrations for 2017, in order to get back to work. Physical, technical, and tactical sessions were the order of the day during the eight days of training at the Robert Louis-Dreyfus Center to meet prepare for the next encounters - which are important because, after traveling to Toulouse for the Coupe de France, OM will be hosting Monaco on Sunday then heading to Lyon. That's one heck of a workload!
Saved from relegation on the last day of the previous season, TFC began the 2016-17 season on a much sounder footing. After the inaugural match against OM at the Orange Velodrome (0-0), Pascal Dupraz's men rapidly approached the top of the table, reaching third on the evening of the 7th day of play after an impressive win over the four-time champions, Paris Saint-Germain (2-0).
Bit by bit, Toulouse fell back down the field following surprising defeats against Caen, Metz and Dijon, as well as some less surprising losses against Nice, Rennes, and Lyon. Now in ninth position in Ligue 1 and out of the League Cup (after losing on penalties at Metz), the players from France's "pink city" could still bring home the bacon by wining the Coupe de France, something they haven't managed since 1957!
The key to the match
With Bafétimbi Gomis suspended for the game, and Clinton Njie not playing due to preparations for the Cameroonian national side ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations, Rudi Garcia had to make do without two of his best strikers. Between the two of them, they had scored 13 of OM's 22 goals in Ligue 1 (59%) and six of Marseilles' last nine cup goals. Therefore, the club's two hottest goal scorers were away from the pitch at the Stadium. The OM coach nonetheless had several options to make up for this absence. "We have dedicated strikers and two more experienced players, like Sarr and Alessandrini, who have had a good week. We have solutions, and we will see who's on form during the training sessions."
At Toulouse, Pavle Ninkov (suspended) and Steeve Yago (selected by Burkina-Faso for the Africa Cup of Nations) will miss the match. Ironically, the scheduling of the Africa Cup of Nations means that Clinton Njie and Steeve Yago will face each other during the first Group A match,on January 14th, when Cameroon play Burkina Faso.