French football has kept the best for the end. On Saturday, the last game of the season, the French Cup final, will see Marseille facing PSG at the Stade de France. The two clubs share one of the biggest rivalries in French football. They hate each other and there could not have been a better final than this one to end the season.
PSG are obviously the huge favourites. They have dominated the season from head to toe, from Day 1 to Day 38. They won the league title in March, won the League Cup already and are looking for another domestic treble after the one they achieved last year. They have been so dominant this season that it is hard to see how they could not win this game, especially considering their incredible record against l’OM lately. They have not lost any of their last 11 encounters with them, even winning the last nine in a row! Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored nine goals in his nine games against Marseille and has always won.
Psychologically, the Parisians will clearly have a huge advantage then. They don’t fear playing against their rivals. Laurent Blanc has all his squad available apart from Marco Verratti, who had surgery on his groin, and the young Ongenda who is suspended. Ibrahimovic has not been training in the last three days but he will be ready for Saturday. Javier Pastore will also be fit and I think he could get picked ahead of Adrien Rabiot in midfield with Matuidi and Motta. He played so well in the League Cup final against Lille and brings more creativity to the team. In goal, Sirigu will start as he has been the starter in the domestic cups. He has been very good when asked to play this season. At the back, Marquinhos is now preferred to David Luiz and he will start alongside Thiago Silva with Aurier and Maxwell at full backs.
Finally, up front, Ibrahimovic will be PSG’s main man for his last ever game for the Parisians. His contract comes to an end in June and he will leave the club after the final. He has been incredible this year with 38 goals in the League. Di Maria and Cavani will play alongside him. He will want to win a 10th French Cup for the club, equalling Marseille’s record, before leaving.
For Marseille, it is a totally different approach. They are big underdogs before this match. They had a terrible season, finishing 13th in Ligue 1 and changed managers twice. Michel was not good enough and was sacked only a few weeks ago after arriving early in the season. Franck Passi, the interim coach, is now in charged and has brought back some confidence to the team and some momentum a bit. The Marseillais finished the season OK and they know that there only way of saving their season is by winning the French Cup. It would be the 11th in the club’s history and it would be so sweet because of the team they would have beaten.
They will have to work very hard to stop Paris. The encouraging thing for Marseille is that their two best games this season have come against PSG. Even if they lost twice in those games at the Parc des Princes and the Vélodrome, they played very well and caused problems to Paris by pressing them high and playing quickly forward. They created chances in every game and despite the defeats, they know they can play well against the champions and cause them problems.
Passi has all his squad available, apart from Abou Diaby who is out injured. The coach is a fan of the 4-4-2 formation and he should start like that on Saturday with Steven Fletcher, the former Sunderland striker, and Michy Batshuayi, the Belgian international, up front. Batshuayi will be the key player for l’OM once again. He scored 17 goals this season in Ligue 1 and 29% of his team’s goals in 2016! It should be his last game for the club too as he will be sold in the summer, so like Ibrahimovic, he will want to leave on a high and with a bang. It could well also be Steve Mandanda’s last game for Marseille. The keeper and captain has been exceptional this season and has saved his team many times. He will start in goal and he expects to have a very busy evening. His back four will be Marseille’s strongest one with Nkoulou and Rekik in the centre and Manquillo and Mendy as full backs. In midfield, Lassana Diarra has not been as good in 2016 as in 2015. He has had a few little injuries but he is so important for this Marseille side. Like Mandanda, Batshuayi and also Nkoulou, it will be his last game for the club. Thauvin and Alessandrini should start as wide midfielders with Isla partnering Diarra in the centre.
19 000 Marseille fans will be at the Stade de France to support their team. There will be many more PSG fans, who will outnumber the 21 000 tickets the club officially got for its fans. Despite Marseille’s motivation, I cannot see PSG losing this final but, like in their matches in the league, it won’t be easy for the Parisians.
The odds are massively in favour of PSG with a win at 1.35. The draw is at 5.00 and a Marseille win is at 9.00.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is favourite to score first at 3.00. My best tip is PSG to win and both teams to score at 3.65.
Score prediction: OM 1 PSG 2 at 9.00