Marseille aim to close on Champions League qualification

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Stadium of Reims – Olympique de Marseille Sunday at 20:45 CET (1845 GMT)

>> LIVE SCORING, STATS AND COMMENTARY

Marseille head to Champagne country buoyed by their 3-2 win at home to FC Nantes in midweek at the Orange Vélodrome, when they came from behind twice thanks to a brace of Dimitri Payet penalties before Amine Harit scored the deciding goal with quarter of an hour remaining.

Jorge Sampaoli’s side took full advantage of results elsewhere going their way and moved six points clear of Stade Rennais FC, RC Strasbourg Alsace and AS Monaco in second place following the midweek round. OM do not have second place sewn up yet, but another three points at the Stade Auguste-Delaune would see them close on securing the runners-up spot in the Ligue 1 Uber Eats table behind Paris Saint-Germain.

That is important, given only the top two qualify automatically for next season’s Champions League group stage while third place enters at the third qualifying round. Fourth will go into the Europa League and fifth the Europa Conference League, but the prestige and financial rewards on offer in the continent’s elite club competition are what the 1993 European champions really want.

Highlights: Marseille get better of Nantes

Moroccan international Harit may again have an important role to play for OM having finally worked his way back into Sampaoli’s starting line-up in recent weeks. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has started just 14 games this season since arriving on loan from Schalke 04. However, six of those starts have come to Marseille’s last nine matches in all competitions and he has scored three league goals in that time.

“Things are going really well. Finally, because the first six months were difficult, but I am now being rewarded for the hard work I have put in, ”he said after the Nantes game. “There is still a long way to go this season but I am ready.”

Pressure off Reims

OM have won nine of their last 10 games in all competitions, their only slip-up in that time coming in the 2-1 defeat away to Paris Saint-Germain in the Classic. After visiting Reims their focus will turn to their Europa Conference League semi-final first leg away to Feyenoord in the Netherlands, but that will be followed by the small matter of the Olympico at home to Olympique Lyonnais.

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On paper this looks to be the least tricky fixture of those coming up for Marseille, especially as the pressure seems to be off Reims after they beat LOSC Lille 2-1 in midweek to effectively secure survival.

Skipper Yunis Abdelhamid’s superb injury-time winner gave Reims the points against the outgoing champions and moved carscar García’s side nine points clear of the bottom three with five games left. They can surely start planning for top-flight football again next season.

Highlights: Reims strike late to beat Lille

“We needed to get a victory as soon as possible so we could feel a bit more relaxed coming into the big matches we have coming up, without being afraid of dropping into the relegation play-off place,” said Abdelhamid after seeing his side claim a first win in five. “Now we can prepare for Marseille, try to make it an evening to celebrate with our fans and win the game.”

Leonardi Balerdi and Konrad de la Fuente are out for Marseille, who also saw Cengiz Ünder miss the win over Nantes. Arkadiusz Milik returned off the bench in midweek after missing the previous five matches with an injury suffered playing for Poland. Hugo Ekitike, who has netted nine times in the league for Reims this season, has not played in over two months.

Probable teams

Reims: To follow

Marseille: To follow

>> PROFILES: Boubacar Kamara, Marseille’s defensive dynamo

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