Ligue 1 PREVIEW: OM v Stade de Reims and Reims v Relegation – Week 37

OMReims

To say Marseille have had a difficult season is not so much an understatement as, well, something else entirely. L’Equipe headlined their last match, a 1-0 win away at Angers, after eleven matches without a victory, with ‘Marseille tient son maintien‘ (roughly, ‘Marseille are staying up’) – and this was of a very different mood than those Leicester fans waving a banner saying the same thing as their team won the title.

In this weird run, one constant for previews has been to note that they haven’t won a Ligue 1 game at home since September, when they beat Bastia 4-1 (before that, they had beaten Troyes 6-0). Those ten goals in two games were followed by a 1-1 draw with OL. Annoying, but understandable. Then a 2-1 defeat to newly-promoted Angers – OK, they were sixth after a fine start, but this was starting to get awkward. A draw against Lorient. OM were sixteenth at this point. A loss to Nice. Draws against Monaco, Montpellier, Gazelec Ajaccio. Happy Christmas.

It must be pointed out that they have actually won other home games this season, but that hasn’t done much to lighten the atmosphere at the Velodrome – they beat Braga and Groningen in the Europa League (after losing 0-1 to Slovan Liberec in the first group game, which was not well received), and Montpellier 2-0 in the Coupe de France in January. But that’s it. Five home wins out of 23 games at the Vel.

And this is it. The last chance. After Michel’s … we’re not even sure how to describe this – departure? suspension? opportunity to explore other life-goals? … whatever, Franck Passi is back for his second interim stint and, with a combination of 4-4-2 and looking very cross about things, has ensured Ligue 1 survival, and a place in the Coupe de France final.

#backpassi

So. Can they do it? Can they silence the boos and whistles and Benny Hill theme music? The LFP Disciplinary Committee might inadvertently have done OM a favour by shutting the Virages Nord et Sud for the last games of the season, so toxic was the atmosphere in the Velodrome at chance after chance missed to sort themselves out.

Now, Reims may not look very likely to pull off a thundering away win – they’ve spent 2016 pottering ineffectually between 16th and 18th, have only managed three all season, got hammered out of the Coupe de France by National side Chambly with a first-half hat-trick from Wilfried Louisy-Daniel (final score 4-1 and the ‘1’ was a last-minute penalty) and come into this on the back of three losses on the spin – but…

The relegation battle this season is now a two-out-of-three situation and Reims are one of the three. With 17th-place Gazelec Ajaccio facing PSG, and 19th-place Toulouse on a decent (relatively) run of form and facing rock-bottom Troyes, les Remois have to be looking at OM’s home form as a gift-horse and avoiding looking at its teeth. But they ship a lot of goals – on 55, they are level with Bordeaux and Lorient, and only ESTAC are worse. With Passi so far playing Michy Batshuayi and Steven Fletcher together as a forward pair, OM should be able to drive through that faltering backline with ease. Indicative odds have a home win at 9/10.

However, Marseille have rarely made things easy for themselves at home, and the most creative element of their play is arguably finding increasingly artistic ways to shoot themselves in the feet. With Reims fighting for survival, the draw at 27/10 looks interesting. Particularly as if they get that and the other relegation matches go to form (Gaz beaten 2-0 by a functional but inevitable PSG, Toulouse put the hammer down on Troyes) all three candidates would end up on 37 points by close of play on Saturday.

That would leave Toulouse in the box-seat for staying up, as their final match is against Angers, who have wilted a bit, and their goal difference would be significantly better than Gazelec, who travel to Lorient. In the middle of that, in GD terms, Reims will be facing Lyon, which seems unlikely to get them anything. If coach David Guion is thinking the same, he may go all-in on the OM game – risky, but maybe the only hand to play.

Marseille vs Reims, then. A team desperate to win versus a team desperate to win.

Allons-y.

LIGUE 1 PREDICTIONS

Week 37 Predictions

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