French champions Marseille are coming under increasing pressure to kickstart their stuttering league campaign after a night in Europe described as “catastrophic” by coach Didier Deschamps.
Sticking to recent tradition, France’s biggest club lost their Champions League opener on Wednesday, succumbing to a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Spartak Moscow after yet another game of near-misses.
Such error-strewn performances have been Marseille’s lot in the league so far. After five games Deschamps’ side have scored eight goals, conceded eight and, more importantly, won just once while losing twice.
The only consolation for Marseille is that they face Arles-Avignon, the league new boys who have yet to put any points on the board, on Saturday.
While Deschamps claims his players are “doing all the right things offensively”, he believes a lack of goals is causing a confidence crisis.
“It’s not for a lack of trying, but the hardest thing is to score, whatever the match, whether it’s in the Champions League or elsewhere,” said the former World Cup winner.
“When we don’t open the scoring, our opponents hold on to hope and doubt starts to creep in.”
If Marseille needed a confidence-booster, this weekend’s fixture could be just the trick: Arles-Avignon took a major step towards sacking their coach, Michel Estevan, on Thursday when he was suspended for five days.
Estevan suffered the same fate at the end of June before being reinstated by the club, but this time is not expected to return.
Club president Marcel Salerno said Thursday: “That won’t happen again. He will be the one offering to leave, it won’t be me sacking him.”
Marseille, however, are not the only big name living the low life in a league being led by Toulouse, who have a one-point lead over Rennes and two on Saint Etienne, with Nice and Montpellier making up the rest of a rather unlikely top five.
Former seven-time consecutive champions Lyon and 2009 winners Bordeaux are both in the same boat.
The Lyon v Bordeaux clash is the pick of Sunday’s fixtures and will be crucial for both clubs.
Lyon boast roughly the same figures as Marseille, and travel to Bordeaux with a modicum of confidence after their 1-0 win over Schalke in the Champions League.
However the game could hinge on how France international midfielder Yoann Gourcuff responds to expected jeering from fans after his shock move from Bordeaux.
“Of course it’s going to be a bit special, but I left on good terms having spent two great years under (ex-coach) Laurent Blanc. But now I play for Lyon. That’s just football,” said Gourcuff.
“But we need to come away with points from Bordeaux, and I think we can do that if we keep possession, make our opponents run and create chances for ourselves.”
Toulouse meanwhile have been given a boost as they bid to tighten their grip with the news that Monaco striker Daniel Niculae is likely to be out after picking up a groin strain in last week’s 2-2 draw with Marseille.
“There’s little chance he will be playing,” said Monaco coach Guy Lacombe.
Lorient v Caen, Monaco v Toulouse, Nancy v Brest, Saint-Etienne v Montpellier, Sochaux v Nice, Valenciennes v Lens, Arles-Avignon v Marseille
Lille v Auxerre, Paris SG v Rennes, Bordeaux v Lyon
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