Marseille needs win at Arles to kickstart season
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps hoped the Champions League would kickstart the French champion's flagging season, but instead a 1-0 home defeat to Spartak Moscow merely underlines the continuing problems in defense and attack.
Marseille is languishing in 13th place with only one win in five games, and Saturday's short trip to last-place Arles should offer the defending champion a much needed win.
But goalkeeper Steve Mandanda says the time has come to stop thinking about playing attractive football and start grinding out wins, even against a poor side that has been conceding two goals a game so far in losing all five matches.
"We have to pick things up quickly and start winning again," Mandanda said. "We have to win, even if we don't play as well."
Elsewhere, surprise early leader Toulouse looks to maintain its slender lead over second-place Rennes when it travels to play unbeaten Monaco on Saturday.
Toulouse was expected to struggle after selling star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac to Marseille, but has 12 points after winning four of its opening five games. Rennes is one point behind ahead of its trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday.
Gignac was a frustrated spectator for much of Wednesday night's home defeat to Spartak, as Marseille wasted several chances before being caught on the break by the Russian side late on.
Deschamps is struggling to find a way to spark his attack now that last season's top scorer Mamadou Niang has left to join Fenerbahce in Turkey.
Brazilian striker Brandao and Gignac have both not scored in their last 11 games for club and country. The lack of a cutting edge was glaringly obvious against Spartak, despite some fine wing play from France's Mathieu Valbuena.
"We gave everything we had and attacked in style, creating chances. Things haven't gone for us but we have to keep fighting and things will turn our way," Marseille's Ghana winger Andre Ayew said. "We have to lift our heads up now because we have an important game against Arles on Saturday. We can't waste it."
Striker Loic Remy is struggling to recover from a groin injury sustained playing for France two weeks ago, and he is not expected to play against Arles.
The problems are equally big in defense, with nine goals conceded in six games in all competitions so far.
The club's only clean sheet was nearly a month ago in a 2-0 home win over Lorient, and only some fine performances from Mandanda - France's No. 2 goalkeeper behind Hugo Lloris - have prevented the team from leaking more goals.
In Saturday's other matches, it is: Lorient vs. Caen; Nancy vs. Brest; Saint-Etienne vs. Montpellier; Sochaux vs. Nice, and Valenciennes vs. Lens.
On Sunday night, Bordeaux hosts Lyon in a match pitting two former champions now closer to the relegation zone than the top.
Coach Jean Tigana's new-look Bordeaux team is struggling to cope without playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and is languishing in 18th place with four points. Lyon - which signed Gourcuff - is only one point ahead in 16th spot.
Bordeaux midfielder Alou Diarra, the club captain, admits Gourcuff is sorely missed.
"It's easier to have with you than against you. He can do everything," Diarra said. "We will have to be attentive and maintain our concentration. We will have to give him as little room as possible and stop him dictating the game."
Defeat for Bordeaux will further exacerbate president Jean-Louis Triaud, already distraught at losing striker Marouane Chamakh to Arsenal for free, and then dealing with the departure of coach Laurent Blanc to the France team and Gourcuff's move to a fierce rival.
Triaud has labeled Bordeaux, the French champion in 2008-09 when it ended Lyon's run of seven straight titles, a fourth-division side for the way it has been playing so far.
"We are not happy with what we've been doing on the field," Diarra said. "We're not enjoying it because we haven't been good enough."
Lille hosts Auxerre in Sunday's other game.