Marseille will aim to break into the top five of the Ligue 1 table when they welcome Strasbourg to the Orange Velodrome on Friday evening.
Les Olympiens’ strong form continued with a 3-1 win over Reims last time out, whereas the visitors’ winless run stretched to three games with defeat to Nantes.
Dimitri Payet grabbed the headlines for his match-winning brace in last weekend’s success against Reims, but either side of his two strikes on the day, the 34-year-old chalked up his 100th assist in Ligue 1 as Arkadiusz Milik put the cherry on the icing on the cake.
With eight goal contributions (three goals, five assists) to boast from his last four in all competitions, the inspirational Payet is one of many Olympiens players relishing their new roles under Jorge Sampaoli, whose side have all the traits of the Marseille that fans used to know and love.
Having taken 10 points from the last 12 on offer in Ligue 1, sixth-placed Marseille are closing in on Lens in the final European spot, and another victory this week would see Sampaoli’s side temporarily leapfrog the newly-promoted side into fifth before Sang et Or do battle with Paris Saint-Germain 24 hours later.
PSG were the last team to travel home from the Orange Velodrome with three points in the bag, as Marseille have won five and drawn one on familiar territory since being bested by the champions on February 7, and Sampaoli’s team will also be out to score at least three goals for the fourth game in a row – a feat last achieved under the tutelage of Marcelo Bielsa in 2014.
Unless Lens can somehow defy the odds and come up trumps at the Parc des Princes, Marseille should occupy the fifth and final European spot heading into their final three matches – all of which are relatively friendly fixtures against Saint-Etienne, Angers and Metz – three sides with virtually nothing to play for.
If recent reports are accurate, Thierry Laurey will be taking charge of four more games for Strasbourg before stepping down from his post, and the Bordeaux-linked 57-year-old still has some work to do before he can rest easy in the Coureurs dugout.
The visit of Nantes represented a prime opportunity to get back to winning ways last time out, and Ludovic Ajorque’s header – his 13th goal of the season – put them in control just before the break, but Jean-Charles Castelletto and Ludovic Blas boosted Nantes’ survival hopes at the expense of Strasbourg’s.
Laurey’s men are not in any immediate danger as they lie 15th in the table, but they are only six points clear of the automatic relegation places with four games remaining, so another poor performance at the Orange Velodrome and they may very well start to look over their shoulder.
Strasbourg can only boast one win from their last six in the top flight, although that victory was on the road as they beat Bordeaux 3-2 on April 4, and since the start of December, only three of their 11 league matches away from home have ended in defeat.
A goal from now-Aston Villa midfielder Morgan Sanson propelled Marseille to a 1-0 win on Strasbourg’s turf earlier in the season, and Les Olympiens boast a 12-game unbeaten home run against their opponents – most recently losing 1-0 all the way back in March 1997.
Marseille Ligue 1 form:
Strasbourg Ligue 1 form: