Sochaux v Marseille: Coupe de France Preview
Wednesday night’s Coupe de France semi-final against FC Sochaux was already going to be a tough fixture for Olympique de Marseille, but the pressure, intrigue and mystery over the game was quickly raised on Tuesday when OM announced that Michel was no longer the head coach at the southern club.
The Spanish coach was already heading down a slippery slope, losing 5-2 at home to Rennes, the awful record at the Velodrome and the fans showing goat images and playing Benny Hill music from the stands.
His position was untenable at the club and he did himself no favours. When speaking about the game, Michel declared that OM would not start the game as favourites. Which, when you are facing a club sitting 15th in Ligue 2, is pretty much a sackable offence on its own.
Officially, Michel hasn’t been sacked, he has been suspended, with Franck Passi taking control of the team. The former Bolton Wanderers man has been part of the club since 2012. He has seen it all and worked under Elie Baup, Bielsa and Michel.
His job will be to take the underperforming Marseille players and find a way to guide them to the Coupe de France final, giving them a chance to salvage something from what has been a car crash of a season. There is talent in the squad, but there are also a lot of average players, most of whom are performing well below their expected level.
Sochaux go into the game with a little bit of confidence. After losing 1-0 to Tours FC at the start of March, les Lionceaux are on a five-game unbeaten run, seeing them record victories over highly-fancied Le Havre, Stade Lavallois and Stade Brestois.
Karl Toko Ekambi is the club’s top scorer this season with 10 league goals – he’s scored in their last two victories and the 23-year-old is the man OM have to stop if they want the pain to stop.
Albert Cartier is without Hadi Sacko through suspension, which should see Toko Ekambi flanked by Sekou Cisse and Yanis Mbombo.
Marseille and caretaker boss Frank Passi are without the suspended Nicolas Nkoulou, meaning that Rolando and Karim Rekik will be tasked with stopping the FCSM attack.
OM could look for the width of Floriant Thauvin and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou to provide crosses for a strike duo of Michy Batshuayi and Steven Fletcher.
Lucas Ocampos, Lucas Silva and Paolo De Cegile have not been named in Passi’s squad. Lassana Diarra is still out and his absence will be felt – but could open the door for Abou Diaby to become a cup hero for the troubled club.
Sochaux are a young and vibrant team, with the likes of Mbombo, Marco Ilaimaharitra and Florian Martin catching the eye – they really should be higher than their league position and they will see this as a chance to prove that to the nation.
Marseille are on the ropes. Can the young lions pounce, take out the legs and go for the jugular? Wednesday night is the best opportunity they will have had in a while – and perhaps the best they will get in a very long time – of reaching the final of the Coupe de France.
Prediction: Sochaux 2-1 Marseille