OM-PSG: tension, thrills, passion, and emotion26 feb 2017
"Coming onto the field, there are only three points in play, but there's a lot more to it than that. The history of soccer has shown that, when Olympique Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain meet, it's always something special." Rudi Garcia tempered his language when commenting on this weekend's headline match, but did not downplay the importance of the encounter, either for the fans of the two clubs or for the game in general.
While he feels that his players are fully focused on the game as the championship's biggest match approaches, he nevertheless stressed the importance of taking charge when faced with opponents of this standard: "We can't afford to lose sight of the fact that we are still playing at home and that, if we don't set the tone for the match, we'll struggle to win - but we also have to be humble enough to recognize that, on paper at least, PSG is the stronger team."
This might not quite be a battle of equals, but Olympique is not in the habit of being a sacrificial lamb, either. Indeed, the team has a weight advantage to help it overcome adversity, as their manager is keen to remind us: "Our biggest advantage is that, playing at home, there'll be twelve men on the pitch." And that might be an understatement. The Orange Velodrome will record its biggest crowd of the season, and perhaps ever. The fans are already promising a memorable show and atmosphere, something they are highly skilled at creating.
"We have to show up for crunch matches like this. A Classico is about commitment above all else," warns William Vainqueur, who has been the team's driving force this season, and whose absence was felt when playing PSG away. The chairman, Jacques-Henri Eyraud, went even further in the media this week, reminding everyone of Olympique's historic values, which his players must take on board and live by: "Willpower, mental strength, willingness to fight, rebellion, a refusal to bow down, and a taste for combat." A list of ingredients which, if used skillfully, could allow Olympique to find the recipe to put an end to a five-year dry spell at home against their historic rivals.
This evening, OM will be outsiders, but as Rudi Garcia so succinctly puts it: "What makes soccer so special is that anything can happen on the pitch. Our aim is to overcome that form and I hope that soccer will once again demonstrate how magical it can be.
On the back of the fervent support of the entire population, Olympique will need to feed on this passion to make sure that we get the right mental mix.
"So, gentlemen, from 9 p.m.: no worries, you've got this. Head high and chest out, walk into the arena and make our dreams come true. Come on OM!