Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Ligue 1 clash between Marseille and Reims, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Marseille will open their 2022-23 Ligue 1 campaign with high expectations, hosting Reims at Stade Velodrome this weekend.
Les Olympiens finished second in 2021-22 with 71 points, the most they have accumulated in a domestic season since 2017-18, while Reims went unbeaten in their final three road encounters of that Ligue 1 campaign, eventually ending up in 12th.
The former nine-time league champions are under new management, with Igor Tudor now at the helm, following the shock departure of Jorge Sampaoli.
Tudor brings plenty of experience in big and small clubs, where he notably guided Hellas Verona to ninth place last season in Serie A, while previously working as an assistant to Andrea Pirlo at Juventus, with previous stops made at Hajduk Split, Galatasaray and Udinese.
He is considered a journeyman coach given his short tenure at numerous clubs, although he employed an appealing brand of football at Verona, focusing on progression and verticality when gaining possession.
While Marseille have some talented individuals capable of playing that way, it would be a bit of a contrast from what we saw from this group in 2021-22, as this was a patient team who liked to knock the ball around the pitch and build up play before progressing forward.
Despite only managing to win one of their pre-season friendlies, Marseille have been able to get off to good starts in recent campaigns, going unbeaten in their first six league games last season.
They have not lost their opening domestic encounter since the 2019-20 campaign, when they were blanked 2-0 at home to Stade de Reims.
In 2021-22, this was one of the top defensive units in Ligue 1, conceding the second-fewest goals (38), posting six clean sheets at home, while dropping only five matches at Stade Velodrome.
Oscar Garcia has a massive job ahead of him, as the Spaniard looks to keep the once mighty Reims side from decades ago competitive in this domestic season.
It will be a tall task seeing as the club lost their star goalkeeper, who was third in clean sheets last season (11), while their top goalscorer has been loaned out to the reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain.
For this team to finish near the middle of the table in the previous campaign, given the number of injuries they suffered, had to feel like a moral victory.
Garcia has done an excellent job at developing this squad into an intelligent team who are technically strong on the ball, although, as he has admitted, they will not always be able to have possession for long stretches against some of the stronger sides in the league .
In those situations, he has relied on a smart and well-organized defensive unit, who were fifth last season in terms of goals conceded (44).
They were especially tough to break down away from home in 2021-22, posting five shutouts, conceding a goal or fewer on 15 occasions and earning 25 points on the road.
Marseille pre-season form:
Reims pre-season form:
Dimitri Payet was the top goalscorer for Marseille in league play last season, tallying 12 times, while Arkadiusz Milik had 20 goals for them in all competitions and Paul Lopez posted 10 clean sheets.
Les Phoceens were active over the summer transfer window, officially signing, among others, Cengiz Under, Matteo Guendouzi, Nuno Tavares and former Lens right-back Jonathan Clausswho had 11 assists in Ligue 1 last season.
Veteran goalkeeper and former World Cup champion Steve Mandanda left on a free transfer to Rennes, while Duje Caleta-Car and Pape Gueye will be suspended for this opening encounter.
Former Reims goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic signed a four-year deal with Mallorca in La Liga, while local product Hugo Ekitikewho tallied 10 league goals for them in 2021-22, joined Les Parisiens on a season-long loan deal with an option to buy for a reported fee of €35m (£29.3m) with bonuses included.
Striker Folarin Balogun has joined them on loan from Arsenal, and goalkeeper Patrick Pentz signed a three-year deal in July from Red Bull Salzburg.
El Bilal Toure had five assists domestically for Reims last season to lead them in that category, Marshall Munetsi was their second-leading goalscorer, tallying five times, one more than Wout Faeswhile Ilan Kebbal and Alexis Flips each had four assists.
Marseille possible starting lineup:
López; Mbemba, Balerdi, Tavares; Clauss, Guendouzi, Rongier, Kolasinac; Gerson, Payet; Milik
Reims possible starting lineup:
Pentz; Locko, Abdelhamid, Faes, Foket; Doumbia, Munetsi, Matusiwa, Kebbal; Toure, Balogun
We say: Marseille 1-0 Reims
Without arguably their two most significant difference makers from a season ago, it could take a while for Reims to adjust their game accordingly, although they should be a difficult team to break down defensively once again.
On the other side, the core of the Marseille team from last season are back, and they have made some new signings which should make them a more dynamic team in the attack, so we expect their individual talent to eventually find a way through a Reims backline that could be put under a lot of pressure throughout this contest.
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Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data