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OL-OM: transfer window, challenges, tension...why you should (absolutely) not miss the Olympico

This is THE shock of the 20th day of Ligue 1.

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OL-OM: transfer window, challenges, tension...why you should (absolutely) not miss the Olympico

This is THE shock of the 20th day of Ligue 1. This Sunday evening (8:45 p.m.), Olympique Lyonnais welcomes Olympique de Marseille in a match that promises to be electric. And in more than one way, even if the two institutions are disappointing this season (16th and 7th before the day). Le Figaro explains why.

On December 6, 2023, Les Gones and Les Phocéens faced each other in the first leg of the championship. The seconds (easily) won (3-0), thanks to goals from Vitinha, Michael Murillo and Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang. This Sunday, almost two months later to the day, the teams lined up will be significantly different. Indeed, the Rhone formation and that of Canebière were among the most active during the winter transfer window.

Olympique Lyonnais has strengthened considerably, in all areas of play. Lucas Perri (26 years old, goalkeeper) and Adryelson (25 years old, central defender) arrived from Botafogo, a club owned by.. .John Textor, the American businessman owner - through his Eagle Football structure - of OL. The two Brazilians do not appear as potential starters, but should bring more competition behind. Malick Fofana (18 years old, winger) and Gift Orban (21 years old, center forward) were bought from La Gantoise, both to energize a starving attack and prepare for the future. Two good recruits on paper. Above all, the Lyonnais struck hard by recruiting Rennais Nemanja Matic (35 years old, midfielder) and Nottingham Forest player Orel Mangala (25 years old, midfielder), two complementary players - at least on paper - who should to take a real step forward in the midfield, through their physical impact, their ability to play forward...and their experience (mainly for the first mentioned). Furthermore, the current 16th in Ligue 1 has managed to downsize (Rémy Riou, Mamadou Sarr, Skelly Alvero, Jeffinho, Diego Moreira, Tino Kadewere), essentially by lending certain undesirables.

Olympique de Marseille is not to be outdone. First, the Phocaeans renewed the left side of their defense. Renan Lodi left for Al-Hilal, six months (only) after his recruitment. Ulisses Garcia (28 years old, left side) and Quentin Merlin (21 years old, left side), who arrived respectively from Young Boys de Berne and FC Nantes, were bought to replace him. Then, in the midfield, the Marseille management went to look for Jean Onana (24 years old, midfielder). Loaned by Besiktas, the Cameroonian, who moved to RC Lens, has the advantage of knowing Ligue 1 well. On paper, it is a great reinforcement. Finally, up front, the Canebière formation has (also) seen quite a few changes. The young François Mughe went (on loan) to Dunkirk to gain experience; Vitinha, criticized for his lack of realism, was loaned to Genoa. In the other direction, Luis Henrique (22 years old, striker) returned from his loan to Botafogo. And if he was not necessarily supposed to stay on Canebière, his recent good performances convinced his managers to keep him. Faris Moumbagna (23 years old) replaces the Portuguese “digitally”. He arrives from Bodø/Glimt with the mission to shake the nets. It remains to be seen whether the step between the Norwegian championship and Ligue 1 is not too high for him.

SEE ALSO - Nemanja Matic's first words at Olympique Lyonnais

What makes this Olympico so exciting is also the stakes of the meeting. Concretely, they do not (really) have the right to make mistakes. If it had reassured itself at the end of 2023, Olympique Lyonnais was caught up by its real level in 2024...Two defeats in two championship matches, and a return to the red zone (16th, play-off) . John Textor may repeat that “OL is not a club that is going downhill”, the fact remains that the situation of the Rhone team is worrying. Even very worrying. This is also (no doubt) what explains why the Lyon management sought so much to strengthen itself this winter...and did not hesitate to take out the checkbook. A setback against the Marseille rival could plunge Les Gones a little into crisis...And into doubt.

The situation at Olympique de Marseille is not as alarming. The Phocéens are in 7th place in the ranking, five points from fourth place (their minimum ambition). A victory this Sunday evening would revive them. The problem is that their latest performances have not lived up to expectations. They conceded a draw against Strasbourg at home (1-1) and failed to win against Monaco (2-2), having played (yet) in numerical superiority for most of the match. ..Suffice to say that they are not approaching this Olympico with full confidence. One thing is certain, they must win to avoid falling (a little further) behind their direct competitors.

This Sunday evening, there should be no Olympique de Marseille supporters at Groupama Stadium. In fact, the Minister of the Interior has banned the travel of Marseille fans. “On Sunday February 4, 2024 from 00:00 to midnight, individual or collective travel, by any means, of any person claiming to be a supporter of Olympique de Marseille or behaving as such, is prohibited between the municipalities of the department Bouches-du-Rhône, on the one hand, and the municipalities of Décines-Charpieu, Meyzieu and Lyon (Rhône), on the other hand,” indicates the decree published in the Official Journal. This decision is justified by “a real and serious risk of clash between supporters of the two clubs”.

It must be said that on October 29, the meeting planned at the Stade Vélodrome had to be postponed because the Olympique Lyonnais bus - as well as certain Rhone supporter buses - had been stoned...and Fabien Grosso, the coach des Gones, (seriously) injured. More generally, the clashes between the two teams are particularly electric. On the pitch with a lot of commitment...but also in the stands. With some overflows. We remember, in particular, that Dimitri Payet was the victim of a bottle being thrown in the face in November 2021 at Groupama Stadium. Let's hope that the tension is only felt on the pitch this Sunday evening.

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