Nice – Marseille – Friday 19.30 GMT
Marseille managed to win last weekend at home against Guingamp (2-1) but only in the final ten minutes of the game and after Guingamp created the best chances of the game earlier on, hitting the post.
It was another average performance from the former league leaders, now a point behind Lyon at the top of the table. They are not playing well, and they are not as strong defensively as they were earlier in the season. They are missing their best defender, Nicolas Nkoulou who is away with Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations. They will also miss Rod Fanni on Friday evening at Nice after he was sent off against Guingamp.
So Marseille will be without their two best defenders and it is a big worry for Marcelo Bielsa. Mendy is also suspended so it will be a brand new defence with Aloe in the centre and Dja Djedje on the left. On top of that Alessandrini is out injured and Ayew is away at the ACN. Once again, it is the balance of the team that the Argentine manager will have to find.
Against Guingamp, like the other two games in 2015 and the ones in December 2014, l’OM were too exposed defensively and in midfield. Montpellier took advantage of it two weeks ago in the league and Nice could well do the same on Friday.
The positive thing for Marseille is that André-Pierre Gignac has finally scored again. After an incredible start of the season (10 goals in the first 10 league games), he stopped scoring with just two in the next 10, but his header against Guingamp, for the winning goal, will be a big boost of confidence for him.
The team needs him at his best to stay in the title race. But the team also needs Thauvin and Payet to get back to their best level. Payet was the best player of Ligue 1 after Lacazette in the first half of the season but, like a lot of his teammates, is showing signs of tiredness now and is less efficient when he is on the ball. The same could be said about Imbula who doesn’t bring as much to the team that he used to earlier in the season.
Hopefully for Marseille those players will go up a gear on Friday in this massive derby. Nice fans and Marseille fans hate each other, the two clubs don’t like each other and the local rivalry is massive. The game should be very aggressive, with a lot of determination and motivation.
Nice are on a good run at the moment. They have lost only one of their last five league games with two wins and two draws as well. They have won their last two Ligue 1 encounters and they are now 10th in the table. They will be really up for it and it is a shame that they won’t be able to play their new signing Hatem Ben Arfa, whose contract is not yet registered.
Nice have beaten Marseille only twice at home in the league in the past 10 years but I think they can snatch a point off their rivals on Friday.
The odds are in favour of Marseille with an away win at 2.20. A draw is at 3.30 and a Nice home win is at 3.30.
André-Pierre Gignac is favourite to score first at 4.60 and my best tip is a draw at half-time and a draw at full-time at 4.75.
Score prediction: Nice 1 Marseille 1 at 6.75