Making History: Coupe de la Ligue Final (OM vs. Bordeaux) Match PreviewBy: Sarah | March 26th, 2010
This is it. It has been 17 L-O-N-G years since Olympique de Marseille won its last trophy (check out L’Equipe’s pictorial of that drought here). Tomorrow this team has the chance to make-up for all those close calls (last season’s title race) and complete failures (relegation) since we won the Champions League in 1993. And, despite my ambivalence (or dare I say distaste) for Deschamp’s coaching decisions this season…it’s almost poetic that the man who led the 1993 team to our last victory could potentially be leading the team again to glory….and to add a tittle that we have never won before!
COUPE DE LA LIGUE: WHAT IS THIS AND HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The Coupe de la Ligue was established in 1994 and the winning team is automatically given a spot in the Europa League. The final is held in Paris- regardless of the teams competing in the final. However, this year, there was some discussion that the final might be moved to Lyon to avoid the risk of PSG fans (who by the way, don’t have a team playing in the game) coming just to abuse OM fans. Craziness, absolute craziness. For more on that nonsense- see my earlier post here. But, in the end, the final was kept in Paris and the city has already mobilized over 2,000 police personnel to ensure the safety of everyone’s fans.
In addition to getting an automatic berth to the Europa League and the title, the winner also gets this very cool looking trophy. Aesthetically, I think this is one of my favorites…
So, how did we get to this point? It is a bit confusing- at least for me- because the majority of the qualification games for this tournament were interspered between games for Ligue 1, Coupe de France and preparation for the Europa League games. Nevertheless, it was a very busy time in Marseille’s calendar- so here is a quick run down of who we beat and by how much.
Round of 16: AS St. Etienne 2 – 3 OM
(Goal Scorers: Brandao 29′ & 59′; Niang 90′+4)
Quarter-final: OM 2 – 1 Lille
(Goal Scorers: Lucho 10′; Valbuena 82′)
Semi-final: Toulouse 1 – 2 OM
(Goal Scorers: Brandao 86′ & 90′ +5)
So that makes Brandao OM’s top scorer in this competition by far- with four goals overall. Remember, these games all happened during his hot streak earlier this year before he was injured for several weeks (and hasn’t rediscovered his shooting boots since…). So, it would be understandable if Deschamps started him tomorrow- after we basically got to this final on his back- but it would be a risky move (considering his recent performances- which have been limited since he just returned to the squad).
THE OPPOSITION: BORDEAUX
Bordeaux are not only the reigning champions of Ligue 1, but they are also the current title holders for this competition. Lately, they have caused a stir amongst the media and fans for their tantrums regarding the league’s schedule. Bordeaux have been very busy lately- they are not only trying to maintain their position at the top of the table, playing in this final tomorrow but are also preparing to meet fellow Ligue 1 rival, Lyon, in the Champions League next week. Once the draw happened and it became clear that Lyon were their European competition, they demanded that the league move Lyon’s game to Saturday (previous to the draw, Lyon has asked for the game to be moved to Friday in order to have more preparation time for their European match). The league caved, causing Lyon to scream abuse, injustice etc (does anyone else have a hard time viewing the consecutive 7-time champions and Aulus as a victim?)…but before I digress to much- I brought this up only to point out that while OM has been focusing on this moment for weeks, Bordeaux clearly have been distracted by Lyon/Europe. It will be interesting to see how that distraction, coupled with the fatigue, affects their game tomorrow.
This whole fixture episode is really symbolic of where Bordeaux is at this point in the season: desperate. At the beginning of the year, Bordeaux appeared to be on their way to winning their second consecutive Ligue 1 title in seamless fashion- opening up a huge gap at the top of the table. That gap has been slowly eaten away as Bordeaux have drawn and lost games they were winning earlier in the season (except in the Champions League where they remain undefeated). Even when they win, they aren’t very convincing (see the two games against Olympiakos in Europe) Now, they are struggling on three different fronts – and risk not winning any of the competitions (Coupe de la Ligue, Champions League or Ligue 1)- as their players become increasingly fatigued and distracted.
In terms of key players, Bordeaux is more a great team than a team of great individual players. Their strength comes from their ability to play well together rather than individual brilliance- which means they are an organized side that can communicate well with each other. They are dangerous on set-pieces- particularly Marouane Chamakh, who is an excellent header. And though star midfielder Yoann Gourcuff has appeared to be only a mere shadow of his former self (or at least season self) thus far this season- his form has been improving lately with the win over Olympiakos and Lille last weekend.
Recent Form – Last 5 Games [Credit: Goal.com]
WON 3-1 (h) Lille (Ligue 1, March 21)
WON 2-1 (h) Olympiacos (Champions League, March 17)
DREW 0-0 (a) Monaco (Ligue 1, March 13)
LOST 2-1 (h) Auxerre (Ligue 1, March 10)
DREW 1-1 (h) Montpellier (Ligue 1, March 7)
In terms of injuries and suspensions, Bordeaux will be missing Gregory Sertic (offensive midfielder) who will be out for a month as well as Marc Planus, their regular starting center back.
Starting XI Prediction: Carrasso; Chalme, Sane, Ciani, Tremoulinas; Diarra; Plasil, Gourcuff, Fernando, Wendel; Chamakh
TEAM UPDATES: MARSEILLE
Didier Deschamps revealed some great news at his Friday press conference- Kone, Abriel and Heinze have all be declared fit for this match- though I doubt all (if any) of them will come out as starters. The team will have to continue to play without Cheyrou- though the Lyon game proves we can cope without him- having him in the team is always reassuring.
Seeing as though we beat Lyon- a team who been performing well as of late- I don’t think Deschamps will make too many changes to last week’s starting line-up.
Starting XI Prediction: Mandanda; Bonnart, Diawara, Mbia, Taiwo; Cisse, Kabore; Valbuena, Lucho, Ben Arfa; Niang
If you had a chance to listen to me on the lastest French Soccer/Ligue 1 Talk podcast then you already know my prediction for this game. I think it will be a tough game- as it always is against Bordeaux, but ultimately I think we will edge them out in a 2-1 victory for Olympique de Marseille. The moment is too huge for us not seize- we have the momentum going into this game (having just beaten a team that took out Real Madrid), our players are in form (Niang is still Ligue 1 top scorer) and we have shored up our bench with players returning from injuries. Bordeaux may be motivated to maintain their title- but we have the advantage of 17 years of disappointment to motivate us sans the distractions of a midweek European game. Plus, I’m still pissed about our earlier “draw” with Bordeaux where Mandanda was wrongly attributed an own goal and we had a goal disallowed. I’m sure OM will be thinking of that when they take the field tomorrow. Perhaps a few of them might even follow Makelele’s lead and who Yoann Gourcuff just how much they remember that atrocious draw earlier this year.