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OM-PSG, a Classic that smells of powder

Evening of shock, evening of Classic.

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OM-PSG, a Classic that smells of powder

Evening of shock, evening of Classic. Solid leader in the Ligue 1 standings, PSG visits its best enemy Marseille this Sunday (8:45 p.m.), at the Vélodrome, for the 27th day. “It’s perhaps the match of the season, an extraordinary match to play,” relishes Pau Lopez. “They are very different matches because of what the rivalry between the clubs implies for the supporters,” notes Luis Enrique. “It’s THE match,” summarizes Jean-Louis Gasset, who experienced a number of them as… assistant to Paris-SG. Classic of which the Parisians are the great favorites. This has often been the case since the Parisian club moved to the Qatari flag in 2011.

Didier Deschamps' OM crushed PSG "made in QSI" 3-0 in November 2011. Since then, the Marseille club has only experienced this joy... twice in 29 matches in all competitions! And the gap between the two teams has not narrowed this season. The proof with the Parisian demonstration of the first leg (4-0) or the abysmal gap of 20 points in the L1 ranking. Last but not least, OM, reinvigorated after the appointment of Jean-Louis Gasset (5 victories), remains with two defeats and counts its injured. The former assistant to Luis Fernandez and Laurent Blanc in Paris will especially have to tinker in defense and in particular on the right, with the package of Jonathan Clauss. It remains to be seen whether the defensive tinkering will be significant... or very significant, depending on the state of health of those in doubt. Foresighted, Gasset admits to having prospected within the reserve or the U19s in order to “see if there is a nugget, a pearl”. Otherwise, there will remain the option Stéphane Sparagna, 29 years old and used to the reserve. Not very reassuring before hitting Paris...

Also read “He can change his opinion”: Luis Enrique sows doubt about Mbappé’s future at PSG

In summary, Olympique de Marseille is on a tightrope before a final sprint where it will be a question of qualification for the European Cup, if possible in the Champions League, and a potential epic in the Europa League. After Paris, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and company - who only shine moderately against the top teams - will challenge Losc, direct competitor for a European folding seat, before turning to Benfica in the quarter-finals of C3 (11 and 18 april). “It’s the most important month of the season. If we want to achieve our goal, we have to take points,” insists Lopez, assuring that “there are no excuses at this time of the season.” And to continue, on the status of PSG favorite: “I don’t care what people think.” Loud and clear. Gasset assures for his part that we must “adapt” and “not lament”.

If they arrive on the Canebière with the favor of the forecasts, it is also because the Paris Saint-Germain players enjoy a quite unusual bubble of serenity on the banks of the Seine, and even more so at this time of the season. Serenity ? Yes, because Paris is still in the running in all competitions, the infirmary is almost empty and potentially controversial subjects have been resolved or... put under the rug, like the Mbappé file. In addition, Luis Enrique's team has not lost since the beginning of November, a series of 24 matches without defeat in all competitions (17 wins, 7 draws). Ideal for approaching the final sprint and dreaming of a crazy treble of the Champions League, Coupe de France, Ligue 1, without forgetting the Champions Trophy already in your pocket. “We will try to do it with all our heart,” swears the Spanish coach, maintaining the suspense over the possible tenure of Kylian Mbappé. “Everything is possible,” he said, who still hopes to see “KM” “change its opinion” about its future. He is the only one. In any case, it would be wrong to deprive yourself of this asset. “I don’t know if there is a plan for a player like that,” sighs Gasset.

Also read “There are no more excuses”: Pau Lopez conquering before OM-PSG and “the most important month of the season”

Still, the realization of these treble dreams does not happen through Marseille. The question is not so much whether Paris will be champion of France, but when. “It's already over for the title,” Gasset cleverly slips, who also pretended not to understand a question about his (good) memories in Paris during the pre-match press conference in Marseille. The wasp isn't crazy... On the other hand, he did not forget to suggest that PSG will perhaps have their minds elsewhere, with the Coupe de France semi-final against Rennes on Wednesday in perspective, not to mention the double confrontation against at FC Barcelona in the Champions League (April 10 and 16). “When you are a coach of his caliber, you aim for titles. The championship is already well underway, there remains the French Cup and the C1,” explains the successor of Marcelino and Gennaro Gattuso.

One thing is certain: compared to PSG, OM have much more to lose... and to gain on a purely accounting level this Sunday. From there to imagining that Parisians will arrive for tourism, there is a world... What reasons for hope for OM? The Vélodrome is one of them. The Marseillais are part of a very select club: that of the Top 5 European teams still undefeated at home in their championship, with Liverpool, Manchester City, Real and Leverkusen. “It’s difficult to come and take points here. We have the ambition and the confidence to play a very good match,” asserts Pau Lopez.

For the rest, the Marseille club can take an example from the Classic of February 2023, in the Coupe de France. Igor Tudor's players gave a lesson in courage, self-sacrifice and teamwork to those of Christophe Galtier (2-1). Again? “When there is more talent in front, if you want to achieve something, you have to find solutions in other places, the collective. Be much more focused, aggressive, skillful with the ball, hold the ball and make the opponent run and above all be efficient. You almost have to make the perfect match, but we've already done it. We have played four matches at the Vélodrome since I have been there, we have always been able to adapt to the situation, with the Villarreal match (4-0 in C3, Editor's note) as a reference, the peak so far. We have to do even better than against Villarreal to achieve the feat,” says Gasset. He continued: “Unlike other sports, there is this hope. If you have a boxing match against Mike Tyson, it won't last long, and you will be 6-0 playing tennis against Rafael Nadal. But in a football match, there is this hope, and that is why this profession is magnificent.

Hope gives life. And God knows that Olympian supporters would relish a victory over the Parisian rival. Their patience has been severely tested since the start of the season, from the exit from the track in the C1 play-offs to the Benatia/Clauss controversy, including the bickering between managers and certain Ultras and the changes of coaches galore , without forgetting the checkered results. “We have a responsibility, we are expected,” insists Jean-Louis Gasset. Parisians have the same. “The only match that exists is that of (Sunday),” swears Luis Enrique, when asked whether the Coupe de France half comes before the Classic in his mind. And to continue: “We will go to Marseille to be competitive. Our goal is to give great joy to our supporters.” Not everyone will be happy at the end of this encounter with many unknowns, a boiling Classic.

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