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Marseille looks to replicate away form at home against Nice

March 17, 2022 GMT
Marseille's players celebrate with supporters after winning the Europa Conference League round of 16 soccer match between Marseille and FC Basel in Marseille, France, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Marseille's players celebrate with supporters after winning the Europa Conference League round of 16 soccer match between Marseille and FC Basel in Marseille, France, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
Marseille's players celebrate with supporters after winning the Europa Conference League round of 16 soccer match between Marseille and FC Basel in Marseille, France, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
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Marseille's players celebrate with supporters after winning the Europa Conference League round of 16 soccer match between Marseille and FC Basel in Marseille, France, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
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Marseille's players celebrate with supporters after winning the Europa Conference League round of 16 soccer match between Marseille and FC Basel in Marseille, France, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — It might sound paradoxical, but Marseille having the home advantage against Nice at buoyant Velodrome stadium in Sunday’s showcase French league match is not playing in its favor.

The two southern rivals are locked in a fierce battle for a runner-up finish behind runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain. Ahead of this weekend’s matches, PSG has a 15-point lead over the pair with 10 matches left to play this season.

While Marseille fans have a reputation of playing the role of 12th man with their loud chants and relentless taunting, statistics don’t lie: Under coach Jorge Sampaoli’s guidance, Marseille is performing better on the road.

The nine-time French champions have amassed 30 points away from home and produced nine away wins — both league highs this season.

By comparison, Marseille’s home record is rather poor, with just 20 out of 42 possible points. The team has lost its past two home games without scoring, with Sampaoli pointing at a form of anxiety as an explanation for his players’ lackluster displays.

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“Honestly, we are working a lot on this, but we don’t manage to deliver at home, we are looking for the right formula,” he said.

Marseille players will definitely feel at home on Sunday night since Nice fans have been banned from traveling to the Velodrome due to risks of crowd trouble. A league game between the pair descended into chaos earlier this season and had to be abandoned after fans threw projectiles and invaded the field.

Marseille has won just one of its past four league matches, a 4-1 win at Brest last week marked by Arkadiusz Milik’s goal and assist.

Often at odds with Sampaoli this season over the coach’s tactics, the Poland striker seems to have finally won the Argentine’s favors and should lead the attacking line in Sunday’s showdown between the two rivals with excellent defensive records.

PSG BACK TO CRISIS MODE

Well on track to equal Saint-Etienne’s record of 10 French league titles, PSG is not in a partying mood before its trip to Monaco on Sunday.

Following its exit from the Champions League in the last-16 at the hands of Real Madrid, PSG players are facing the wrath of fans frustrated with repeated failures to deliver on Europe’s biggest stage.

Against Bordeaux last week, Neymar and Lionel Messi were whistled every time they touched the ball, and PSG’s ultras group is now calling for sporting director Leonardo and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi to leave.

“What I heard during the game was sad,” said coach Mauricio Pochettino, whose future at the helm of the club is being questioned.

Fans’ anger has left Kylian Mbappé’s unfazed. With his goal against Bordeaux last week, the World Cup winner is now the sixth French player to score 15 league goals or more in four successive seasons in one of Europe’s top five leagues after Thierry Henry, Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette, Karim Benzema and Wissam Ben Yedder.

PSG has yet to convince Mbappé to sign another deal. His contract runs out in June, meaning he could leave on a free transfer.

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