Olympique Marseille v OSC Lille, Ligue 1, August 16, 2009
In the second week of Ligue 1 this game is expected to be the best of the weekend, as proved by the late kick off on Sunday night. OM will be looking to get their home form off to a flyer as they aim to win their first French title in 18 years.
New coach Didier Deschamps has wasted no time in leaving an imprint on the club. On arrival the French World Cup winning captain of 1998 said he will change the style of play and told some players who he didn’t fancy to go looking for a new club. Although Mathieu Valbuena is yet to leave OM, Lorik Cana (Sunderland), Karim Ziani (Wolfsburg) and Djibril Cisse (loan move ended) have all been moved on since the end of last season.
Deschamps did not only usher players towards the exit but spent big money on talented Argentinean midfielder Lucho Gonzalez who joined from Porto. The 28-year-old should provide chances for Marseille’s forwards, but will miss this game due to injury and is only expected back at the beginning of September.
Another major signing was Stephane Mbia, the Cameroon defensive midfielder came from Rennes for 16 million euros and, alongside Edouard Cisse who signed from Besiktas, will be expected to dominate in the center of the park.
Marseille also strengthened at the back by bringing in Souleymane Diawara from Bordeaux and Gabriel Heinze from Real Madrid. These defensive minded signings should add to the overall quality in the Marseille squad that pushed Bordeaux so close last season. (OM are 11/10 to keep a clean sheet.)
The likes Taye Taiwo, Hatem Ben Arfa, Mamadou Niang, Brandao and Bakary Kone were all impressive during 2008/2009 and they should be eager to go one better this season. (OM are 8/5 to score in both halves.)
Lille have had a somewhat turbulent summer, losing their best player in Brazilian Michel Bastos to Lyon for 18 million euros. Bastos had a hand in 26 goals last season (12 goals and 14 assists) and he will be a big loss.
Les Dogues also had one of the hard luck stories of the summer. They signed new goalkeeper Mickael Landreau from PSG, who almost immediately picked up a knee injury in training and is only expected back at the end of the calendar year.
Coach Rudi Garcia will be hoping Lille’s major signing this summer, Gervinho, will make up for the loss of Bastos and ensure the club continue to punch above their weight in Ligue 1.
Much will depend yet again on young Belgium starlet Eden Hazard, voted Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Season in 2008/2009. A number of the biggest clubs in Europe are interested in the 18-year-old (Juventus and Inter Milan were linked earlier this week) but Lille is a good place for a teenager to develop.
Even at this stage of the season, momentum is a crucial commodity. Last week Marseille won 2-0 at Grenoble, whilst Lille lost at home 2-1 to Lorient. It could well be two wins out of two for Deschamps and his men on Sunday night.
101gg predicts: Marseille 3 – Lille 1 (11/1)
Full match odds here.