Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos believes Marseille’s collective strength will be the greatest challenge they face when the defending Ligue 1 champions visit the Stade Velodrome for Le Classique.
Laurent Blanc’s men travel to Marseille for this season’s second edition of the biggest rivalry in French football and a match that is likely to have a significant bearing on the destination of the title.
The visitors lead the way at the top, with Lyon a point behind and Marseille a point further adrift in an absorbing battle for the championship.
PSG won the reverse fixture 2-0 at the Parc des Prince in November and have not lost to Marseille since a 3-0 defeat back at the Velodrome back in 2011.
“I think from here on in every single match will be decisive,” Marquinhos told PSG’s official website.
“In the league, we need to keep picking up points. It’s important to keep winning to keep the pressure on the sides behind us. We need to return from Paris with the feeling that we’ve got the job done… and with all three points.
“Every player loves this type of atmosphere, this type of match. It’s the Clasico, something a bit special.
“We know that they are a very strong team, and that the ‘team’ is their main strength. Marseille have a coach [Marcelo Bielsa] that has brought the best out of his players.
“They have understood his mentality, his philosophy. Players like [Dimitri] Payet and [Andre] Ayew can make the difference, but it’s really as a collective that they are strongest.”
Marquinhos is in contention to return from a thigh injury, while full-back Serge Aurier and Yohan Cabaye are both back in training following lay-offs.
For Marseille, coach Marcelo Bielsa has made two changes to the starting XI, with Mario Lemina coming in for the suspended Giannelli Imbula and Jeremy Morel replacing Baptiste Aloe.
Bielsa has stuck with Andre-Pierre Gignac as Marseille’s central striker despite Michy Batshuayi scoring six goals in his last five games for the club.
Defender Nicolas N’Koulou, who has recovered his fitness following knee surgery, appears set to start on the bench.
Bielsa has revitalised a Marseille side that finished sixth last season and, although PSG are pretty much at full fitness, he insists confidence will be high come kick-off.
The Argentinian said: “The expectations of our team are at maximum and that is what will make sure that the confidence will be at a good level against Paris.”
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