Europa League final fever may be gripping Marseille, but for their future Champions League hopes the French giants face an equally crucial clash against Guingamp on Friday.
Much to Marseille’s joy, the fixture was brought forward a day to allow Rudi Garcia’s men ample time to recover and prepare for their Europa League final against Atletico Madrid on May 16.
But Friday’s trip to Brittany could be just as important as next week’s final date in Lyon: Marseille are battling both Monaco and Lyon to finish runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain and claim Ligue 1’s second automatic spot for the Champions League.
With two matches remaining, Marseille, in fourth, trail Monaco by one point and Lyon by two points.
Failure to beat Guingamp in the sides’ penultimate league match of the season would deliver a huge blow to Marseille’s hopes of qualifying for Europe’s premier club competition next season, and perhaps sow unawanted seeds of doubt ahead of a final clash with Atletico that the whole of France, according to Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud, wants the southerners to win.
“We are all really grateful that French football is giving Marseille so much support in this Europa League campaign,” Eyraud said after receiving confirmation of the rescheduled fixture in midweek.
“We feel we’re riding a really positive wave that, I hope, will carry us to victory.”
Garcia has calmed expectations, labelling Marseille as “underdogs” for what will be the club’s fifth European final. So far, they have won just one of their five previous finals — the 1993 Champions League.
The former Roma coach will expect a humble, though determined approach from his players on Friday.
Although Marseille have beaten Guingamp in their two previous meetings, both in the league, the Brittany side — currently 11th in the table — triumphed the last time they met in Brittany, a 2-1 win in August 2016.