Ligue 1: Big Money rolls into the Stade Velodrome

Another massive grudge match this Sunday evening in football is Olympique Marseille v Paris St Germain. Both teams are top of the table in Ligue 1  and thanks to the large wads of cash being thrown around by PSG, French club football is back in the news.

I will have to admit from the outset that I am completely biased and have a soft spot for L’OM. I have friends from Marseille and ever since my brother and I watched football we would see Chris Waddle playing as part of this glorious attacking triumvirate with John Pierre Papin and Abedi Pele taking on the toughest team in Europe in Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan. They played with such freedom, their football was care free and a delight to the eye. It was a lot better than the drudge of watching pre-Premiership, League 1 football and was incredibly exotic for someone like myself. My brother even got what I think is his only video ‘Chris Waddle: The French Way’ where he would repeatedly watch and practice Chris’ tricks and feints. This reached its peak when he even got a Sheffield Wednesday top with Chris’ name and number on the back, not too many of those running around the North back then as you may imagine.

On to the game. Joey Barton will not be playing on Sunday as he is still serving his 12 match domestic football band. He has had something of a dressing down from Chris Waddle who was somewhat surprised by Joey’s loan move and has warned him about not annoying the notoriously fanatical fans of L’OM. Meanwhile, occasional art aficionado and philosopher Joey has noted that he is settling in well in the south of France and is looking forward to playing regularly and helping the team over the season. This Sunday, hotly followed across Europe, Loic Remy (27 goals in 60 games for L’OM), and Andre-Pierre Gignac (12 goals in 54 games for L’OM) should be starting up front, however, they will face a stern test from PSG’s back for (more to follow).

For PSG, ever since there take over by the Qatar Investment Authority, approximately £130 million was spent during the summer  of 2012 bringing in some top quality talent to the French capital the highlight of which must be Zlatan Ibrahimovich who has accumulated enough in transfer fees to probably settle the national debt of a small country. Already, he has played 5 and scored 7 goals while at his previous club (AC Milan) he had an enviable record of 42 goals  of every kind imaginable in 61 games; it’s safe to say that he is a class act and a welcome addition to any team in Europe despite the media in England not warming too much to him.

Aside from Zlatan, notable buys included Izequiel Lavezzi from Napoli (£22.8m), Lucas Moura from Sao Paulo (£35m), Marco Verratti from Pescara who has been something of a revelation in Ligue 1 (£10.5m) and the very talented and much wanted Thiago Silva from AC Milan (£36m). In fact, the departures of both Zlatan and Thiago Silva were so bitter a blow for the Tifosi of Milan to take that after mounting a protest  the club offered full refunds to all disgruntled fans who had purchased season tickets if they so wished to avail of a refund. Thiago Silva has blossomed into an outstanding central defender and together with Alessandro Nesta was able to forge an incredible partnership for Milan, much like Nesta’s previous successful pairing with the greatest defender of them all, Paolo Maldini.

As to who will win, well PSG are going into the game having lost away to FC Porto 2-1 in the Champions League in what was an incredibly lackluster performance. I really thought they would have taken the fight to the Portuguese but alas, they were beaten by a far better team on the night. L’OM are not in the CL, however, in their Europa League fixture they managed to hockey AEL Limassol 5-1 at home with goals coming from Remy, Gignac among others, so they must be brimming with confidence going into this weekend.

Also, due to the insane amount of money PSG have splashed on players over the summer and the one prior they are not exactly liked among France’s footballing fraternity as they are accused of committing the basest and greatest of all footballing sins, attempting to ‘buy the league’. This is normally a ridiculous accusation to level at any team as this is what all large clubs do, they buy players and exploit their status and wealth to keep a competitive edge on their opponents, however, PSG have skewed spending in the market in such a way that only a hand full of clubs could ever dream of keeping up with their spending…in Europe. No one in France has the means to out bid PSG so whether it is thanks to base envy or disgust at the money being thrown around by foreign owners, L’OM can expect most of France to be cheering them on in this straightened times this Sunday evening.

My Prediction: Olympique Marseille 2-2 Paris St Germain

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