Marseille can go top of Ligue 1 this weekend but they must beat a Rennes side boosted by their Cup heroics in what promises to be an enthralling clash in France.
L’OM lie one point behind joint-leaders Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, but Rennes are only two places behind in fifth as they look to qualify for Europe.
“Rennes are fighting us for European places, and they have just qualified for the Coupe de la Ligue final,” Marseille boss Elie Baup said.
“That kind of thing gives you confidence, and at home they are always strong. They will give us many problems.”
Rennes, who are six points behind Marseille, will have to do without star man Yann M’Vila, who sealed a surprise move to Russian club Rubin Kazan this week.
Midfielder Jean II Makoun was philosophical about his departure, pointing out that the club develops and sells players with the production line of the youth system capable of covering the gaps.
“It’s the law of football,” he said. “We are a tight-knit group and we don’t have too many injuries. We have to adapt, and the signings of John Mensah and Herita Lunga have added great experience.
“There are young players who have been doing excellent things in training, and they should be ready.
“Often a team’s loss is a youngster’s opportunity to get playing time and prove himself. Romain Danze has already done this, and the coach will decide if there will be more.”
Makoun feels avoiding defeat is imperative as fifth-placed Rennes look to stay within striking distance of the top three, not to mention Nice, who are ahead of them on goal difference.
“The most important thing is not to lose,” he said. “If we get a good result, that keeps us in touch. The objective is not to drop away.
“Marseille are a team who rarely put themselves in danger. They don’t give away much, but they do not create a great number of chances.
“They’re well organised and they take their opportunities. We have to be just as lethal.”
It is not only Rennes who bemoan the loss of star players.
Baup went on a mini-rant about the continued exodus to the Premier League, with Newcastle United in particularly building up their repertoire of French players.
“What you see is that French football loses good players, who are all leaving for England,” Baup said, as much in reference Newcastle’s multiple acquisitions to the sale of striker Loic Remy from Marseille to Queens Park Rangers
“It’s a financial problem – French clubs work with young or unknown players, develop them, and sell them to England again. We are in this cycle too.”